Renee

Plain English conceptual art, being trusted and it wouldn’t happen in London

Driving along a country lane in Hertfordshire, we came across a farm of Jersey cows with an unusual shed in the courtyard. From a Star Trek-like vending machine, you can dispense a litre of raw milk into a glass bottle, which you pay for by dropping your cash into a little cardboard box. You wonder if the cow’s on the other side of the shed, legs akimbo and squirting directly into the machine!

milk blogYou wouldn’t get this in London.  The box was filled with around £50 in coins that honest people had paid for their bottle of fresh, unpasteurised cow juice.  Following a whoosh of blinding steam, the creamy milk oozes seductively into the newly sterilised bottle. And then you’re free to leave, having been trusted to make your payment and leave a comment on a post-it note about the convenience of the whole exercise.  Before we left, a sign on the wall caught our eye and, following its instructions, we rang the designated number to order freshly prepared, delicious Jersey cow’s milk ice cream – honeycomb, banoffee and Baileys flavours.

Being in the country reveals a stark disparity to London.  It’s so laid back, and about as far as you can mentally go from the hubbub of the city – although, as you may have noticed, I find peace in the many galleries I visit during my working week.  On Tuesday, Kathryn-from-Ohio and I visited the two current exhibitions at Tate Britain.  The first was a remarkable pairing of Victorian photographs with Pre-Raphaelite paintings – and the second: Conceptual Art in Britain (1964-‘79).

Conceptual art is very much a marmite genre.  Many times, I’ve heard people saying ‘I could do that, I could have done better, this is crazy…’  Yes, but you haven’t, you didn’t and, as mad as you might think it is, it’s earned someone a great deal of money and status in the art world.  They had the idea to present it to the public; it’s as simple as that.

My favourite piece was ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges}’ described as ‘an example of a structure made using organic unstable materials and ordered by time rather than a fixed, spatial or volumetric composition.’  It made the boys laugh. What was originally a pyramid built of oranges is now (at the time of writing!) a wooden square filled with a low covering of fruit. The point of the artwork is that viewer participation changes its molecular form – something I thought about as I ate my free orange the next day!

Kathryn and I commented on the verbose language used to describe the art throughout the gallery and I made some passing reference to my plain English editing work. I don’t do so much of this now, although I still run training courses to show businesses how to write in plain English without waffle and jargon in order to get their message across clearly with maximum impact.

orange blog

So it was very amusing – and annoying – to see that someone had, in fact, turned this into a work of art!  It was actually a team of three people who had targeted art galleries in the late 90s to critique their press releases under the cover of offering free advice. They faxed their annotated versions to the galleries with scores out of ten and useful, interesting and – quite frankly – rude comments.  I could have done that…

Oh well, I’ll have some poetry in the ‘100 Madonnas’ exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in September – hopefully it’s written in plain enough English to get the message across.  And hopefully you’ll come along to the gallery to see the 100 pieces on display – the preview is 8th September, 6pm-9pm.

As I don’t know any song lyrics about oranges, I thought I’d choose something from the period covered by the conceptual art exhibition. I’ve written about Cat Stevens recently, but chose him again today as he’s Joey’s favourite artist (musical, not conceptual) and it is Joey’s special week. “If you want to leave, take good care, hope you make a lot of nice friends out there…”  No. no one’s leaving, but it certainly is a wild world.

If you’d like to know more about getting your business message across in a dynamic, clear and understandable way, give me a call… or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

LinkedIn at the Tate, an Olympic torch-bearer and Prosecco in a menswear shop

So the Olympics have kicked off!  As you know I’m not a sporty person, although over the past few months I’ve sailed (kind of), swum (kind of), wobbled along on a bike and strolled through forests and parkland – anywhere that promises the adrenaline thrill of a cream cake and a hot chocolate at the end of the journey. I’m actually writing this blog in the sunshine outside Konditor and Cook at Spitalfields, enjoying an apricot and honey cheesecake crumble while I wait for a networking event to start at 6pm.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOne thing that has drawn me to paying attention to this year’s Olympics was the fact that my friend and business associate Dieneke was a torch-bearer!  I logged on to Facebook one morning, stunned to see her smiling face holding the torch aloft as she ran through the streets of Rio. She’s an inspirational woman for various reasons and quite deserving of the honour.

We worked together a couple of years ago on a special project.  Dieneke ran a competition for the 1000 or so British designers that she supports through her website, Hidden Art.  Mark and I had the privilege of delivering 121 workshops to the three winners – his on business strategy and mine on social media marketing. The whole thing was great fun. The formula was similar to the workshops I’ve been providing this month to growth businesses in the city, although these focused more on professional profiles on LinkedIn than general social media.

One of my favourite 121 sessions this week was with a lady called Melissa that I worked with in the Tate Modern members’ room.  It’s a brilliant location to meet; the view’s amazing and the cakes are delicious.  After our session on social media marketing we called in to the gallery to view the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective.  It’s wonderful – if you get a chance you should go.  Her landscape paintings have an ethereal quality, and the flowers for which she’s famous are highly stylised and bold, yet also beautiful, swirly and delicate.

And my favourite non-work activity this week was 30 minutes of Jesus Christ Superstar at the gorgeous Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. The heavens opened that day, but Philip had the good sense to take sailing gear, so we dressed hysterically in muddy waterproofs and watched the cast battle against the elements to entertain as best they could. Consummate professionals, they sang and danced with their clothes clinging to them like a wet t shirt competition in the 80s, rain pouring down their faces. The show was called off as it became a danger for them to perform, so hopefully we’ll be luckier with the weather when we return next week.

Jesus has been topical this week, as I’ve prepared my poetry for the upcoming ‘100 Madonna’ exhibition, which will be held from 5 – 18 September at the Crypt Gallery in Euston.  More info to follow in due course but, if you like art exhibitions, please diarise this one – it’s going to be fab!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSince writing all that, I’ve been to the networking evening – it was brilliant.  Michelle Peters, a business instructor for lawyers and other professionals, arranged it with Oscar Bencivenga, owner of a gorgeous Italian menswear store in Spitalfields. (I love the photo of the Bencivenga family almost as much as the fabulous clothes.) I’ll be returning with the boys – although I’m guessing there won’t be Prosecco and canapés during the working day.  Could be wrong though; there’s a DJ on Friday nights during late opening hours, as the area’s buzzing and customers call in after work.

Not sure if that DJ plays this, but I still do… “He’s searching, she’s showing; see him held in a deep deep spell, he knows she’s glowing. I can find within my mind a way to go… I can look deep into your light and shout ‘Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me.”  If you’re looking within your mind for a way to go with your business – and that way is forward, let’s chat about how social media can help you get there. You can hold on to clients whilst you meet new ones!  Call me to find out more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Political hair, smashing windows and LinkedIn for on-line dating

I was wondering why all the key female players in world politics have the same haircut?  I posed the question on Facebook, yet no one seems to know.  This band of older women with their blondish bobs are reminiscent of Joanna Lumley’s 70s ‘Purdey’ cut mixed with a bit of Princess Diana then shaken up with the Midwich Cuckoos – also known as Village of the Damned…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingEnough said.  At least the news seems to have veered away from how they look and focus more on what they’re doing, or planning to do.

There’s also more stuff in the news about the dangers of online dating.  Of course there’s a risk to meeting a stranger that you’ve only spoken to by email – but it’s no more than meeting someone in a bar.  I met my boyfriend on a dating site and, after nine months, he still seems relatively normal. Loves chocolate, owns dogs (good judges of character), dislikes cats (well it would be weird if he had no faults), has loads of friends, a lovely home and a very nice mum.

In my youth I was far more slapdash when it came to dating.  Gill and I did some things we wouldn’t dream of telling you about now, including getting into some pretty close scrapes.  We were actually very stupid teenagers for two fairly clever girls.  One time, we met two boys at the Ilford Palais and they offered to take us to the White Bear pub where one of them lived for a late night hot chocolate.  We drove through country lanes with a noticeable absence of properties until we came to said pub, forlorn and deserted in its moonlit setting of fields, grass and more fields.

By this stage both our hearts were beating super-fast and we felt extremely wary – somewhat more so when the supposed inhabitant told us he’d forgotten his keys and would have to break in… Cutting to the core and removing the sheer panic from this cautionary tale, he climbed through a broken window – and, it transpired – he did, in fact, live there. We had the hot chocolate then the boys drove us home, perfectly safely and happily. But it was a lesson learnt.  (If Philip is reading about this smashed window incident, he will be smiling at how history repeats itself.)

Today’s methods for meeting people do, at least, give you the opportunity to carry out a fair degree of research before coming face-to-face in a public place.  Social media allows you to see who they’re connected to, whether their friends look like axe murderers, if they have family who appear to like them.  You can check out where someone works, what they do, what they enjoy, where they go – our lives have become open books.

When I started dating again my friends thought it was weird to meet up with someone for lunch or cakes – but it’s really not that different to networking.  I’ve been contacted on LinkedIn for business enquiries that have led to coffee and an iced bun.  (When I proof read this I saw I’d initially typed ‘iced bum’ – that would put a completely different perspective on business meetings!!!)

I’ve been helping a few city-based businesses get to grips with LinkedIn this week.  It’s such a fabulous forum for researching prospective clients and setting the groundwork for future business dealings.  It may share similarities with on-line dating sites, but surely networking events are just like a party full of new friends all ready to chat. What’s the difference?

Nick Lowe said, “I love the sound of breaking glass, deep into the night. I love the sound of its condition, flying all around.”  I don’t advocate breaking anything, apart from ice. If you’d like help to ice-break when you network on- or off-line, give me call. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Ethical business, death by syllable and sailing too close to the wind

I am now a sailor. Having spent five hours aboard a sailing boat I am familiar with all the nautical terms that relate to a boat capsizing. Fortunately we didn’t, but there were a couple of close shaves. Philip forgot to pull the blah-de-blah from the blib-de-blob that resulted in the boat tilting at an 89 degree angle, but he righted it in the fraction of a millisecond between going over or retaining an upright, almost dry position tossing about on the waves.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywriting

Not the best photo, but all that could be done in the 5 seconds it seemed safe enough to get the phone out the dry-bag.

Getting into my new wetsuit was the first challenge. Then I couldn’t even get into the boat. “Jump in!” he yelled, which of course I wasn’t able to. Suddenly two hefty arms around my waist lifted me up and over, literally chucking me headfirst into the boat! Bum in the air, face on deck, very elegant.

Disentangling myself from the numerous ropes that need constant pulling and tugging, tacking and securing, untangling, knotting, twisting, moving… (I don’t actually know what I’m talking about) I could hear him mumbling sarcastically about the grace of a gazelle….

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe idioms I have been familiar with my whole life – and have used in business practice – now have a whole new meaning.  Sailing close to the wind, taking the helm, man overboard… Wasn’t there a to-do a few years ago about the term Man Overboard…? During my Plain English Business Writing sessions I’ve had corporate clients who have set internal guidelines for using gender-neutral terms, and we’ve laughed about the extremes some people go to to avoid using the word ‘man.’

They can no longer say ‘manning the phones’ or ‘manpower,’ for example. And it occurred to me yesterday that if I’d taken a solid feminist stance and insisted on using ‘woman overboard,‘ that extra syllable could have killed me. Well, I doubt I’d have actually been killed or damaged on the beautiful lake at Rutland Water, but you know what I mean. Syllables save lives!  Now there’s a campaign for the new government if ever I heard of one!

I haven’t done any Plain English sessions lately but this week I began a series of one-to-one training dates on various aspects of social media. Coincidentally, three of the companies I’ve worked with have been ethical businesses. One, Change Please, provides barista training to homeless people. It involves carts of delicious, high quality, perfectly roasted coffee being sold in trendy locations around the city, from Borough to Canary Wharf, with proceeds going to the charity and homeless people being given the skills and resources to earn a living.

I gave up coffee seven years ago, but the smell of a good mugful and the temptation of creamy froth sparkling up at me still makes me yearn for a bar of galaxy to dip in and indulge… But I don’t submit! I’ll stick to green teas and mint infusions for the time being. Or a nice glass of cool wine on a warm summer evening.

We had a bottle of wine at the Canary Wharf concert on Tuesday, kicking off the picnic season with the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing sedately. I think this week will be more of a singing, dancing night – feel free to join us – we’re there most Tuesday evenings from 6pm.

Mark and I loved this in the 80s and we both still play the High Land Hard Rain album all these years later. “Get me back on board, pull me up with grace. Get me back on board; let me be embraced.” If you’ve gone overboard, or you feel you’re bobbing along and your business could do with a marketing push, give me a call.  Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Raising money, pregnant at 50 and LinkedIn pages for kings and dogs

Square Mile Salute is a charity set up by my friend and colleague Anne, with the aim of delivering a night of fun and laughter that celebrates all that’s great in the city while raising money for some worthwhile causes that support our servicemen and servicewomen. The sumptuous banquet she organised jointly with CSARN at the Honourable Artillery Company was fantastic with amazing food, gorgeous flowers and incredibly interesting people.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAt the beautifully dressed and perfectly laid table, Ben looked to his left to greet his dinner partner, only to be faced with… a dog!  (No, I’m not being bitchy about anyone.) We had the pleasure of Allen Parton’s company along with his assistance dog EJ (Ben’s new friend) and another lovely creature who is deemed to be the cleverest dog in the military family! As well as the standard jobs these dogs do, such as loading the washing machine, using a cashpoint and getting their owners into the recovery position, this canine lady can sense Cancer and pregnancy, and makes a fuss of the relevant person. Fortunately she didn’t fuss around me.  The woman who went out of Masterchef last week was saying she has one daughter of 35 and another of 2 – born when she was 50…. Just imagine that!!!

Anyway, the evening was a roaring success, raising over £50,000 for four very worthy charities, including Soldiering On Awards.  Comedian Tom Binns was exceptionally funny, providing the entertainment in character and keeping the hall giggling throughout.  The champagne helped with that too…

I’ve walked past the Honourable Artillery many times, and wondered what was going on as I peered through the wrought iron gates.  Soldiers in uniform playing cricket in the heart of the city, a fairground (!!) and some very impressive architecture.  Now I know.  This magnificent Georgian house set in a five-acre garden houses a charity set up by Henry VIII to support the Regiment which bears its name. It’s a lovely estate and it was certainly one amazing night!

The venue can be hired for private functions and I’m thinking about running a social media workshop there.  I’ll need to be organised though, I’m guessing that everything there runs to military precision.  I ran a social media training session recently for businesses based around Liverpool Street and Shoreditch. Although it didn’t start until 9 I like to leave home very early to get parked at the station and beat the crush of morning commuters. So I arrived an hour early and, it turned out, without any make-up, without my hairbrush and without reading glasses (an item that is becoming more of a prerequisite as each year passes).

I’m running a series of 121 sessions this week – hopefully a bit more pulled together!  I’ll be all over London, from Spitalfields to Westfield to a barn on a river by the A10.  It’ll be fun.  I love working closely with businesses to help them generate more activity on social media.  I’d have quite liked to have worked with Henry VIII to help promote his artillery too, although probably best to have steered clear on that one. (I can fire in a fairly straight line as it happens.)  He’d have had an interesting LinkedIn page, that’s for sure. As would EJ the dog…

Wise man Tom Bailey said, “Diamond rings, and all those things – they never sparkle like your smile. And as for fame, it’s just a name that only satisfies you for a while.”  Sparkle online – and keep smiling – ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to Roy Strutt for the lovely photos.)

Tea and knickers, Brexit and a sign of the times

It’s a quick blog today as I spent far too long watching politics and wandering around country houses this weekend and not enough time working. But that’s ok, right?

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe undressing exhibition at the V&A was interesting, but lacked some of the pieces Debra and I would have liked to have seen. Not that we’re serial underwear-watchers, but – as she pointed out, Madonna’s pointy bra would have made a good point.  A lot of the exhibits were from previous centuries and it’s hard to know whether to marvel at the fact women could actually wear them, or feel sorry for pain they must surely have suffered. Probably both, actually.  They were certainly keener to present themselves as slaves to fashion than I would be.

Some of the stuff was very lovely, with examples of bras from the 50s to the 90s still elegant, sexy and beautiful, even by today’s standards.

As it happens, I preferred the Botticelli exhibition.  Reimagined images of his most famous artworks in various media are displayed in a gallery alongside the 15th century master’s original works.  I love love loved a Dolce and Gabbana dress which was slated by the Independent.  (No photos allowed, but there a pic of it on the V&A website’s home page.) It Looks a bit similar to my Jean Paul Gaultier dress and spurred me on towards a brief diet so that it fits me again….

The diet ended an hour later when we stopped off in Covent Garden for a traditional English cream tea.  Oh well, art often depicts curvier women so an extra few pounds can’t hurt.

(As I’m writing this, I have a vague recollection of seeing Madonna’s bra once – possibly at the Rock Café in London a couple of years ago. Did I – or has time made me imagine weird underwear things??)

If you’re surprised I haven’t discussed Brexit on social media, it’s because I think there’s been enough posted to drive all five living generations crazy.  Never before have I seen such divisive comments on Facebook – friends turning against friends, people insulting those who disagree with them, heated arguments, slagging offs…  Whether you voted in, voted out or voted out and then regretted it, all we can hope for now is a common sense, compassionate outcome with a government that genuinely wants the best for all of us – and a community that works to create a better world for our children and their children.  Am I optimistic? Not particularly.  It’s uncharacteristic for me but there you have it; based on what I’ve seen and read since Thursday I think it may be a tough ride ahead for England.  But we’ll see….

As the Belle Stars said, back in the days when I voted for the trendiest party rather than paying attention to the issues, “You say you love me but want success, I say you’re lying, nothing has changed. This is the sign of the times, piece of more to come… This is the sign of the times, time to be alone.”  Hmmmm – read into that what you will.  But no one needs to be alone. England, Britain, Europe, Earth – wherever I am, I’ll still be here: @WeekendWitch.

PS – my best friend turns 50 this week!  Happy birthday Gill, have a wonderful day, week, year and forever! Thank you for being my friend XXX

A sixties icon, fathers and dancing goddesses

Cat Stevens’ voice hasn’t changed.  His sultry tones are still emotionally raw and the audience cheered when everyone realised Tuesday’s concert was simply, as promised, a fundraiser for Syrian children and not an opportunity to talk about Islam.

13466198_10154267066881255_1388867276007582269_nHe’s an incredibly engaging performer, down to earth and natural; his easy-going personality shone through his smiles. Converting to Islam in 1979 meant he stopped recording, but his return a few years ago bridged the gap over a whole generation, albeit without some of his best work. (His wife won’t let him play any of the stuff he wrote for ex-girlfriend Patti D’Arbanville, apparently.)  Now known as Yusuf, this concert was billed under both names, but the playlist was mainly pre-musical-break – as the audience had hoped.

When we got the tickets I wasn’t sure how many songs I’d know – Father and Son has long since been one of my favourites, but I tended to mix him up a bit with Bob Dylan.  So it was a nice surprise that I knew most of them and was able to join in, in my lovely, tone-deaf harmony that sounds pleasant to me and my cat, but sends everyone else running for cover.

The week took me back to London the following day for a members’ viewing of the new Tate Modern extension.  Well, the building has an abundance of wonderful space and I’m an art lover, so of course I enjoyed the evening… The layout is interesting, the work was mostly creative and the hot chocolate in the members’ café was smooth and creamy.

13493019_10154279481886255_1999541311_nThe subtext here is that Martyn and I were more impressed with the building than a lot of the artworks. Some were hugely creative and impressive but others less so – however, kudos to the artists for originality in marketing their art so well that the largest gallery of modern art in London accepted it for display.  Neither Martyn nor I haven’t achieved that…

I’m writing this on Fathers’ Day.  Although this celebratory day is rumoured to have begun in America at the turn of the 20th century, it only became official in America in 1972. Presumably the UK copied, and my guess is that the greetings card industry pounced on an opportunity.

By contrast, Mothers’ Day dates back to ancient annual spring festivals the Greeks and Romans both dedicated to maternal goddesses.  A Christian festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent honours the Virgin Mary, and in sixteenth century England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers and named Mothering Sunday.  Not being Christian, Greek or Roman, I still – obviously – enjoy the attention on Mothers’ Day, without the religious connotations or dancing around naked to goddess chanting. (Although I think some of my friends might indulge…….!!)

13237635_10154219615981255_5084423832331039728_nAnyway, I’m spending this Fathers’ Day morning ploughing through my son’s washing, as he returned from university last night with a year’s worth of dirty clothes. He also came home with a huge smile and a 2:1 degree from Cambridge – so this a very proud mummy signing off and wishing all the dads, step-dads, grandads, foster dads, common-law dads, like-a-father dads, uncles and fathers-in-law a happy day and a wonderful year ahead.  I’ll be thinking about my daddy in heaven, as I do most days.

I did post these lyrics on Facebook recently, but couldn’t miss them off today. ‘Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got – you will still be here tomorrow, though your dreams may not.’

Your dreams will… Make them your reality.  Ask me how: @WeekendWitch.

Kinky footwear, dead poets and flickering candles in Spitalfields

Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street is an absolute treasure. Hidden in the depths of Spitalfields beyond the trendy market and restaurants, it’s a time capsule, a true step back through the centuries. The house was occupied from 1724 by Huguenot silk weavers and, wandering the wooden-beamed rooms in candlelight, there’s an eerie sense of them having just stepped out for a moment, leaving the minutia of their lives exposed.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingEach room painstakingly recreates a moment in time, capturing the feel of life in London from the Huguenots’ breakfast table to the dawn of the 20th century – and the house is hauntingly atmospheric. We wandered around in silence, as is the rule (Sshhhh), careful of the candles flickering as we gingerly stepped around the beautiful furnishings and objects that were once somebody’s belongings. Fittingly, I wore a silk skirt – not Huguenot-weaved: Phase Eight – but the sentiment was there. Its floaty edges weren’t ideal for the narrow wooden staircase that reach four storeys into a bygone world, making me wonder how the women managed in their glorious brocade dresses. Definitely worth a visit if you have an hour to spare in London!

I’ve had a very cultural couple of weeks, what with our trip to Burghley House, another lived-in stately home, grand and very luxurious with whippets racing and alpacas sort-of-smiling – and a day out with Sharon and the twins to Westminster Abbey.  I loved that!! Not sure it was two 13-year-old boys’ idea of fun, but the landmark is so steeped in history you can almost hear the monks shuffling along the cloisters.  As you may already know, I do love an ancient gravestone and the Abbey didn’t disappoint.  With some of the most celebrated brains (now bones) in English history, from Isaac Newton to Charles Dickens, and Kings and Queens lying in peace close to artists, poets (including some of my favourites) and, errr, a plumber…. I could have stayed all day but the café soon tempted us away with creamy fish pies!

A few days later the twins came along to Oli’s 21st birthday party.  How blessed we are to have had five generations together in one kitchen.  Well. Four and a half really, but who’s counting. (Only the person in charge of the tequila jelly-shots!)

My week closed with another trip to London – Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre.  Such a fantastic show – as well as being flamboyant with brilliant choreography, costumes and sets, the story is true, making it all the more special.  This tale of a business owner with a flagging firm and fewer customers each year is heart-warming and funny.  He befriends drag queen Lola and, together, they create a range of sought-after, thigh high, glittery fashion boots for cross-dressing men – and business booms!

The musical score by Cyndi Lauper is fab – particularly if you were her fan back in the 80s. (I was.) As she would say, “Sometimes you picture me – I’m walking too far ahead. You’re calling to me; I can’t hear what you’ve said. Then you say, ‘go slow,’ I fall behind. The second hand unwinds.”

If you call me I promise I’ll hear (possibly not if you whisper). To be sure, get in touch here or here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.

Sandwiches, dinner and a little ukulele

When I was at school, a sandwich shop opened by the roundabout that offered a whole cabinet full of fillings.  It was quite innovative for the eighties.  Every day I’d pick up my banana and corned beef sandwich to eat with my friends on the park bench next to the school – from where we’d forget to go back for afternoon lessons.  This is on the days I went to school of course, those being art and social science days, as opposed to maths and PE which I generally skipped.  Don’t remember an awful lot about what we learned (except cumulus and cumulo nimbus clouds, and Latin verb formations) – but I remember the weird sandwiches….  What does that mean?

Working at Principles, my days were so busy buying jewellery and lingerie that there was barely time to eat lunch.  Someone would do a sandwich run and we’d sit at our desks shovelling in the food.  I think the café there was called Harry Masons – not exactly sure now but it was definitely Harry Something.  I had a chicken and stuffing sandwich every day, unless being wined and dined by suppliers. In Venice the sandwiches were memorable because they looked like their fillings had been ice-cream-scooped into the bread.

I’m mentioning this because I don’t eat sandwiches now.  The bread no longer likes me and I’m quite strict.  Giving a presentation on social media recently on the 23rd floor of the Shard, the lunch provided was a superb mix of…. Sandwiches.  Various breads, buns and wraps adorned the table, but I settled for a plate of black grapes and a mint tea.  It wasn’t my best business lunch.   So in years to come I’ll remember little of the presentation and who was there, but my strangely selective memory will recall the mix of sandwiches laid out before me.  (I’m writing this late at night again… can you tell?)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingHad dinner in a lovely little Moroccan restaurant recently with my friend Mark who runs a business hub in Southend.  I’ve run social media training courses for him in the past, when he was based closer to London.  Then he took me to a tiny bar, the size of someone’s front room, where the D’Ukes entertained us with their ukuleles!!  European headliners at the ukulele festival, they were actually fantastic!  Playing an eclectic set that encompassed Amy Winehouse, the Pretenders, Neil Diamond and – erm, Hava Nagila, we clapped and joined in the choruses of everything from the 60s to Stereophonics.

Mark mentioned that the group were all probably someone’s grandads, and we laughed about that because it seemed funny that grandpas would be doing a gig.  I say this while listening to Fleetwood mac on the iPad and having spent last night chatting about the Rolling Stones exhibition.

Work this week is a funny mix of meetings and blogging, with plenty of time for lunch.  So if you’re in Zone 1 and fancy a sandwich (without bread!) and a chat about social media, give me a shout.  (When I read back to edit this, I noticed I’d written ‘give me a shot’ – that also would be nice – Baileys, preferably!)

Let’s try this…  Hava neranenah, hava neranenah, hava neranenah ve-nismeḥa!  (Let’s sing, let’s sing, let’s sing and be happy!)  And why not? I’m off now to find my pink ukelele – I think it’s in the attic…. time to start learning to play? Enjoy your lunch – and your week!! @WeekendWitch.

Wonderful winners, a walk through London & bubbles in a bottle of fizz

What a week! It’s been a whirlwind of business-related celebrations – and a huge amount of fun!

Firstly, the most enormous congratulations go out to my clients Nordens, winners of the ICAEW Accountancy Firm of the Year.  They thoroughly deserve the recognition for providing business services that go way beyond mere number-crunching. I could sing their praises all day, but it’s probably best if you’re interested that you see for yourself, so here’s their website.

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And yes, before the grammar police handcuff me, that last paragraph should have been written in the singular, as Nordens is one client and ‘it’ won the award.  However, I work individually with many of its 32 members of the team, so I prefer to say ‘they’ – anyway, isn’t the whole point that it’s the people who make a business fantastic?!  These are certainly amazing people, and it’s an incredible achievement that they have awards for best accountancy practice in London and Essex – as well as a whole host of other, shiny, sparkly, crystal engraved awards.

I write all their award nominations, so they credit me with helping to gain these trophies.  They sent me an enormous, beautiful bouquet on Saturday which was a lovely surprise – thank you Nordens; it’s a pleasure working with you!

13268186_1095635363834136_7909119860883937164_oHuge congratulations also to my other award-winning clients, J E Putney & Sons, winner of the business awards category for Growing Business of the Year.  Writing their award application introduced me a team of passionate and dedicated people, whose business is traditional lime plastering.  They use ancient techniques to restore historic properties in and around London, Essex and wherever there’s a need for their specialist handiwork. They’ve worked behind the scenes in some amazing places – you can find out more about what they’ve done to restore London’s heritage right here.  (Well done guys – it’s been wonderful working with you!)

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Congratulations also go to my friend Francesca who launched the seventh book in her series of London Step Outside Guides this week.  At a glittering party to celebrate the book launch, I discovered that Frannie can whistle like one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five heroines!  One loud toot and the room fell spellbound, while she and her partner Margie presented their latest publication and thanked the relevant people for helping them along the way.

Margie ended their speech with an amazing metaphor: ‘I could say we are a small fish in a big pond.  But I prefer to say we are a small bubble in the publishing glass of Prosecco… But with your support we will carry on fizzing!’  Love it!!

I own a couple of the books – they’re guides to walking tours of London written with the aim of kids leading a day out in the capital.  Absolutely suitable for adults too, as they’re full of quirky titbits of info, facts and fun.  One of the books even gives free entry into Westminster Abbey, saving a family of four around forty quid. Not bad, eh?  They’re brilliant gifts for anyone who loves London (which I do!!).

I’m back in London this weekend for a visit to Somerset House’s latest art exhibition and brunch overlooking the river, then at the television recording studios near Waterloo on Monday.  As my friend Sue’s friend Ray says, “Millions of people swarming like flies ’round Waterloo underground. But Terry and Julie cross over the river where they feel safe and sound. And they don’t, need no friends…”

We all need friends… because we’re all tiny bubbles fizzing away in the Prosecco bottle, bouncing off each other!  If we’re not already friends on Facebook, feel free to pop by and give the page a like. Thank you.  And of course you can follow me here: @WeekendWitch.