Renee

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.

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

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.

Exhibitionism, ageless misbehaviour and my first studio TV appearance

What an amazing afternoon I spent with Martyn the Artist at the brilliantly presented Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones! Without doubt the best exhibition I’ve seen since Bowie at the V&A.  Also the most expensive – possibly Mick Jagger’s economics background coming into play.  The Saatchi gallery is usually free, so I assume it’s the band making the money? Anyway, so worth it…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt turns out that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, childhood friends who’d lost touch, bumped into each other at Dartford train station, each carrying LPs of blues bands.  What a serendipitous day in music history that turned out to be.  Coincidence? Fate?  Of course it would be all so different today with school friends keeping in touch on social media.  Facebook highlights everyone’s musical tastes, fashion disasters and likes/dislikes, so it’s easy to find things in common with potential multi-million-pound-rockstar-partners.

Exhibitionism showcases not only the band’s talent, but their lifestyle over the past five and a half decades. Their logo pretty much sums it up: the sticking out tongue – an image representing ageless misbehaviour, childish anarchy and sexual decadence of a group of slowly aging men.  Martyn told me an interesting story about this branding; the intellectual property rights for the tongue still belong to the designer. He retained ownership apparently, and earns a nice little pot from the famous psychedelic lips.  A good day’s work, eh?

Aside from the music itself – soundbites, sound installations and handwritten, scribbled lyrics – the Saatchi Gallery displays their fantastically flamboyant fashions, set design, album cover artwork and videos in an encompassing microcosm of British pop. And it’s rude.  Videos of naked girls falling about drunkenly on tour buses. Like the band, these women are probably also grandparents now; it made us laugh.

In the eighties, Gill’s company were doing the PR for the Stones’ film ‘Let’s spend the night together.’  She brought home a huge bagful of badges with those words, and we traipsed around pubs and clubs throughout London distributing them to boys we fancied!  (Don’t do that now…)

The exhibition ended with a 3D concert: what a fabulous way to close the show! So my afternoon ended in a studio – strange, as it had started in one too…

Dr Anne Gordon and I were interviewed live on breakfast TV to talk about childhood stroke.  I tweeted a photo from the Green Room!  We both felt terribly important sitting in there, waiting patiently for the floor manager to organise us. When she came, a pretty young lady called Jennifer, we thought she was taking us into hair and make-up.  How funny – we were so wrong!  Three steps through the busy office and we were in the actual studio, sitting behind a desk waiting for Luke Blackall, the show’s charismatic presenter.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnne is extremely eloquent, and described her work with the survivors of childhood stroke. I spoke briefly about my experience – seven years to the day of Oli being admitted into the Royal London Hospital.  As I said on TV, it’s a shock that hits so hard it’s very difficult to move on. But move forward we do.

This weekend I facilitated a support day in London for families of childhood stroke survivors, where four medical experts gave presentations and the parents who attended could see that they’re not alone.  It was a Stroke Association event, and donations and support from the public made it possible. Thanks to the team, and also to KAO for donating their lovely office space for the day.

Aside from the fun of this week, it’s been emotionally draining for me, but music usually cheers me up.  My enduring memory of Mick Jagger is the night of Live Aid, where he danced around in a green silk shirt with David Bowie, just two friends having fun in the wasteland that is now Docklands. “It doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there. So come on, every guy, grab a girl, everywhere around the world…”

There might not always be swinging, swaying and records playing, but there’s always social media.  If you need help with yours, call me – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Votes for women, healing a broken heart and a happy story about a cow

The strangest thing happened last week.  I was being kayaked (is that a verb?) along the Cam, feeling a little like the Lady of Shalott, when a cow fell into the water!  It was a spot where the bank was built up on concrete, so impossible for her to climb straight back out.  I’m not sure I’d ever seen a cow so close up, but as she swam past the little rickety boat her face looked serene and lovely – focused on swimming past the panicking rowers (me included!), intent on finding a safe place to exit.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe people on the riverbank looked terrified too.  I don’t know whether anyone had called the fire brigade – or whoever one might call to rescue a drowning cow, but a burly man with a strict-ish voice instructed us to scare the cow across the river to the opposite bank, where escape looked easier.   I thought the shock of me scaring her with a kayak oar might finish her off completely. Fortunately, she ignored all the people and a dipped bank about 200 feet along gave her the foothold she needed to waddle out.

Once back in the sunshine and munching a blade of grass, the cow gave an almighty moo – matched swiftly by her mother, who ran towards her, the herd close behind.  We watched as they gathered around and nuzzled her – it really was so sweet to see.

As you may have noticed, I’ve done little work for the past couple of weeks while my broken hand has been healing itself.  And, it turns out, my broken rib.  You see lots of posts popping up on Facebook about healing a broken heart, but very few about broken hands.  Or ribs.  So this week has been playing catch-up. I’ve created several blogs, PowerPoint presentations and a website for clients, leaving hardly any time to go out for lunch!

Found time to go to the polling station though.  It really irritates me when people don’t vote, then complain when the country – or city – isn’t run how they would like.  Especially women and, yes, I know that’s sexist in itself.  But women gave their lives so that we can vote, and there are still women today in other parts of the world for whom that entitlement is curtailed.  So what right do we have to abuse the privilege?

I think I’ve said before that I would have been a suffragette had I been born a century earlier, and not just for the beautiful jewellery: ‘Give Women the Vote’ – GWV – green, white, violet.  I’ve seen some gorgeous pieces in antique shops yet never treated myself to a piece, but I might…

One of the PowerPoint presentations I’ve been preparing today is for a social media talk I’m giving at the Shard.  It will be the first one I’ve done for a few weeks due to my injuries, so I’m looking forward to sharing some valuable tips on social media marketing for financial businesses.  The session kicks off the start of a busy couple of weeks work-wise, with meetings with potential global clients, a gallery visit, fashion networking and an open day at Birkbeck College – can I find the time to do a PhD between meetings and afternoon tea?

I’ve been doing most things using only my left hand and it’s reminded me of an album I played on a constant loop when Ben was a toddler – until he pointed out, ‘That’s a rude word, mummy!’ No rude lines in this one though: “I’m high but I’m grounded, I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed. I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby.  What it all comes down to, is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine. Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a high five!”

Well my hand is out of my pocket now (or rather, out the splint – most of the time anyway).  If you’d like to high five, catch up with some social media marketing tips, email me, message me on Facebook or tweet me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lustrous glazes, made up words and a mining opportunity in Botswana

Last Wednesday was interesting.  I’d been invited to a presentation about copper mining in Botswana.  The invitation was related to the possibility of me investing in a mine – something that’s not likely to happen.  However, Wilbur Smith has been one of my favourite authors for over 30 years, so the romantic impression he’s created in my mind of bounty-hunters in the Kalahari led me to the basement of a St Paul’s wine bar to listen and learn.

It was good networking.  I sat next to one of the key investors, who invited me to join him for a fact-finding mission in Thailand. I’m not going.  He told me people often mistake him for (a younger) Hugh Laurie, although his behaviour was more Hugh Grant.  He held my glass of Merlot while I checked my phone, as he had no signal on his… and he sipped a bit!

Didn’t stay for the sausage and mash buffet; we had dinner instead at the beautiful St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.  I’ll be interested to watch the share prices of the mines though – both in Botswana and Thailand – it’s something different.

Having studied linguistics, I should probably have been more excited about the weekend’s celebrations of Shakespeare’s death.  I haven’t actually read much Shakespeare but I like knowing which words he made up, like barefaced and dwindle.  He’s also to thank for some commonly used phrases, such as ‘all that glitters isn’t gold,’ ‘break the ice’ and ‘in a pickle.’  All of which applied to me at some point this week!

We had planned to attend a Shakespearian poetry recital at Elizabethan Hatfield House on Sunday, but decided to scrap that idea in favour of supporting a street festival in Whetstone, in north London.  Wandering along, warming my broken hand with a paper cup of frothy hot chocolate, the most inspiring stall was a collection of works by local artists.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingPhilip owns a number of pieces by one of the ceramicists who was there. She was proudly displaying her wares despite the bitter cold of late afternoon. Karen Cohen specialises mainly in one-off organic inspired pots, taking a particular interest in the texture and surface of the piece. She works with Raku fired pieces, experimenting with shape and the lustrous glazes typical of this type of firing.

It’s a wonderful thing when someone can create a business from their hobby.  To be passionate about your work is one of the most satisfying ways to live.

This may be a very tenuous link to the Bard, but it’s the best I can come up with on this chilly Monday morning.  “You can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold.  You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold.”  I didn’t really appreciate Mark Knopfler back in the day, but this has been one of my favourite songs for two decades, and Ben plays it beautifully on his Zebrawood guitar.  (Gill, you don’t like Dire Straits, do you…?!)

“I’ll promise you anything, I’ll promise you thick and thin…”  Actually, I don’t promise anything I can’t deliver.   Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how I can make it happen – ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Old friends, winning awards and psychedelic chocolate cake

Nicky and I met on our first day at college.  We’d both caught the wrong train and met up at the wrong station going the wrong way.  It turned out we were both signed up for English Lit, although I never attended the lectures, choosing instead to spend my afternoons in the photography lab.  Strange that I ended up with a Masters degree in Linguistics and couldn’t take a decent pic if my life depended on it. She’s got three degrees, so I guess we both found our way in the end…

We took psychology together but, while I was dipping films in a chemical bath, she was studying drama – with Alan Davies, with whom I fell in love, unrequited, and draped myself around during the never-ending lunch breaks in the refectory.  I could share my photos of him on social media now, but they’re old and faded; you can imagine how many fingerprints covered those proof sheets after he became famous!

There was no social media of any kind back then – computers were for spacemen and PacMan.  How different our lives might have been had not Winston raved about his Saturday job in Hamleys, encouraging us to sign up for weekend work selling balloons.  There was a small computer department there at that time – yes, Pacman – also Aliens.  No one was sure they’d take off….

After a year of unbelievable and unmentionable fun in the world’s best toy shop, I started my career in fashion while Nicky ventured off into the police.  We kept in touch for a few years, partying with Marion, then our lives diverged and Nicky moved up to Newcastle. Friends Reunited brought us together in 2004 for a brief breakfast in Vegas but we hadn’t seen each other since then.

hamleysSo a Whatsapp call out of the blue led to this weekend of frolicking (as much as women of a certain age are able…) through our old stomping ground of London’s Regent Street and surrounding areas. Gill joined us for our trip down memory lane – better known as Carnaby Street.  It’s a buzzing, trendy area that’s never lost its charm, despite losing the psychedelic orange paving stones.

The hour we spent in Hamleys generated a lot of laughter.  We didn’t realise at the time, but one of our old colleagues still works there – 38 years of service – how many people can beat that??!

‘Lunch’ was eight huge wedges of chocolate cake with a few dollops of ice cream and a generous squirt of sauce at Choccywoccydoodah – one of my favourite London cafés.  We all shared nicely and brought home the remainder for Sunday’s afternoon tea.

This week has started well with the news that four award applications I wrote for clients have all been shortlisted! So I’ll be attending a finalists’ celebration dinner next month in a swanky venue with wine and more delicious food.  Nicky commented that she ate more during her time with me than she’s eaten in the last whoever knows how long!! Perhaps I’ll switch from a social media blog to a food one…

Barbee, Beard and Shelby (otherwise known as Shalamar, but I like the sound of their names), said these very wise words: “If I had a dollar for every time that they have stood by my side helping things turn out right, I would be a millionaire.  And my wealth they would share ’cause I’d be nowhere without my friends.”

blog april 19Never a truer word.  Marion and I have worked together on and off for 33 years and she’s a fantastic asset to my business.  Wishing her a very happy birthday today!!  If you’d like to know what Marion does to keep our social media clients happy, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Facebook secret messages, de-stressing and laughing at Grimsby

Facebook users were surprised this week with the revelation that we don’t see all the messages that are sent to us. You may be aware of your ‘other’ mailbox on Facebook’s Messenger system – this may actually be called ‘other’ or it may be called ‘message requests’ – Facebook seems to be changing everyone’s gradually.

If you go into your Facebook mailbox, next to the list of recent messages you will see a drop-down menu that says ‘more.’  Clicking on this will give you access to messages that weren’t initially shown to you, plus a further list of ‘filtered messages.’  If you use Messenger on your phone you’ll find this under ‘settings.’ These are messages from people that Facebook thinks might be spam, but you could find one from your long-lost uncle Cyril in Guatemala, who fled the country under suspicious circumstances and now wants to leave you his multi-million pound fortune.  Well, you never know.

12987023_10154107784761255_5685878567087393710_nForget uncle Cyril in Guatemala (I made him up).  I’m rather hoping I turn out to be a secret Rothschild baby. Because…  First visit of the year to a National Trust property took us to Waddesdon Manor, the fabulously opulent holiday home of the Rothschild family. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the estate in 1874 when it was nothing but farmland, and from the grassy plain he created his French chateaux-styled dream holiday home, which now acts as a lasting legacy to good taste and opulence.

I could get used to eating dinner here!

I could get used to eating dinner here!

All that money: more than you could possibly dream of, partying with royalty, collecting treasures, travelling, success, fun, more fun, more treasures… I’d be okay with that.  Yet was this man happy?  Tragically his wife died in childbirth less than two years after the house was built and the Baron never remarried. He did seem to have a steady stream of gorgeous women visiting though, so hopefully he remained satisfied with a bachelor’s life.

After the cultural finesse of this outing, we went to the cinema to see Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest film.  I wouldn’t have chosen to see Grimsby; I was dragged along with the promise of some sort of chocolate wonderment to follow, but actually it was very funny.  Crude, ridiculous, vulgar in parts and laugh out loud in others. I did get the chocolate treat afterwards, as always.

The following day was spent wandering through the perfect grounds of another Elizabethan mansion – Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Wild and windswept wooded areas lie adjacent to beautifully tended Tudor gardens and wild flower walks.  I spend a lot of time here at the moment, either with dogs and wellington boots, or without dogs and with a tendency to veer off towards the courtyard café. Or both, although that’s not great if it’s raining.

I’m mentioning this because my life is now a lot more peaceful.  Whilst I absolutely love the diversity and dynamism of London and all the city has to offer – especially the museums (I’m a gallery gal) – and its brilliant networking opportunities, at the weekends I feel at one with nature.  And I’m mentioning it today because April is Stress Awareness Month, the time for health care professionals to band together and raise awareness of stress while looking at ways to combat it.

With two sons stressing about exams and a cat stressing about the local fox (he’s taken up residence under the laurel bush), my memories of meditation techniques comes in very useful. For me, if not for them!  And a large box of chocolates always helps, of course… as does the odd glass of rioja.

Relieving stress is very simple: take time out.  It may be a temporary measure, but it honestly helps.  As Phil Oakey said, “Take time to see the wonders of the world, to see the things you’ve only ever heard of.  Dream life the way you think it ought to be; see things you thought you’d never ever see.”

I’m seeing things in Hertfordshire – it’s very close to London.  Come and explore with me?  Or we can catch up over a hot chocolate and squidgy cake in Shoreditch.  Arrange it here: @WeekendWitch.

Historic love affairs, your free gift and making up words

Last Thursday I attended a networking evening at the City Business Library in Guildhall, a venue where I’ve run social media training sessions in the past. Those workshops were great and I made some brilliant contacts, but the networking evenings have canapés and wine…  It was good fun!

My friend Mark was one of the keynote speakers and he praised me to the room, which was very nice of him.  He also drove me home after my glass of Rioja, and made me laugh so much I got hiccups; very elegant for a woman of my age….

Mark runs a business hub in Southend where SMEs in Essex can meet, learn and develop their businesses under his helpful hand.  It seems that when he’s not working, he is busy making up words!  His latest was oddinator and, while it may not have been added to the Cambridge Dictionary yet, I have found myself using it this weekend!

Another speaker was a fab lady who had also worked at Redbridge Council back in the day.  Julie launched Too Fat to Run, a fat girl’s guide to running, after taking on the challenge of her first marathon a few years ago.  She has since appeared on various daytime TV shows and in a whole host of magazines, encouraging larger ladies to get off their bums and have fun in a pair of trainers.  I don’t run.  I found Julie extremely inspirational nonetheless, as she chatted about building her empire through social media, and her global running ‘meet-ups’ where women take part in countries all around the world.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe evening was organised by ELBP, for whom I have run many social media training workshops.  During one session a couple of years ago I met Dr Maria Zoutsou , a wonderful therapist who helps people to banish stress and achieve optimal well-being.  Maria booked me for a one-to-one session to go through marketing techniques and learn to use LinkedIn effectively, as well as talking about ways to grow her business.  So I’m very pleased to be able to share her brand new ebook with you!  Maria is kindly allowing you to download it as a free gift, right here!  (Thank you for sharing this, Maria.)

Pre-social media and on-line blogging, people’s diaries kept a running commentary of their lives, recorded for posterity and usually discarded.  Samuel Pepys kept one of the UK’s most celebrated diaries, surviving over 350 years and chronicling major London events such as the bubonic plague and the Great Fire of London, along with a personal recount of his many love affairs!  An exhibition of his life and work is just about to close at the Greenwich Museum, but Karen and I stumbled upon it on Good Friday while we were looking for a cake shop.

I hadn’t realised Pepys only wrote his diary for nine years – if I follow in his cream ribboned satin Stuart shoes I’m half way there!  Debate rages about whether he intended the diary to become public, as much of the original text is written in shorthand and code.  It took a Victorian scholar three years to decipher the diary, only to discover at the end that the key to the code was right there on the bookshelf above his head!  I bet he wasn’t laughing to the point of hiccups!

I don’t code anything I write. It’s all set out in plain English.  I do make up words though, and having a masters degree in linguistics, I’m rarely challenged – a bit like Gary Kemp:  ‘Reasons reasons were here from the start; it’s my instinction, it’s my instinction. Reasons reasons were part of the art; it’s my instinction, it’s my instinction.  Stealing cake to eat the moon.’ (I love the last line.)

If you fancy getting together to make up words, or edit complex stuff into plain English, ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.