Plain English, travelling and Miss J A Bocking: number 1 teacher

People always talk about that teacher…  That special person who steered us through one or two of our tender, informative school years and whose name remains forever in our minds.

In my case it was Miss Jennifer Bocking. A truly lovely woman whose traditional teaching skills and sense of fairness gave us ten-year-olds a good grounding in some of the behavioural techniques we’ve taken forward into adult – and business – lives.

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A dozen of my Facebook friends are in this pic – strong friendships for almost 40 years

No one was ever in trouble.  Naughty children were taught why their actions were unacceptable and shown strategies to improve and build relationships with others.  Those who couldn’t cope well with academic subjects were encouraged in arts and sports.  Anyone with only a few friends was drawn in to groups, by the whole class being subtly taught inclusive behaviour.  Everyone was made to feel special… and valued.

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Zara, Miss Bocking, me and Simon

I believe that Miss Bocking taught in our suburban primary school for a couple of decades.  So, when someone suggested on Facebook that we hold a school reunion for all her pupils, with Jenny (if we’re allowed to call her that now?!) as guest of honour, loads of people yelled “Yesss!” Some are planning to travel from their homes abroad for the simple reason of spending one more afternoon with this amazing lady.

How many of us can boast that we inspire generations?

The reunion is scheduled for early June.  Between then and now I’ll be away more than I’m home, travelling the country from Edinburgh down to Winchester in a quest to spread the word on plain English as the key to good business communications.

Social media training has been my focus for the last three years, so it’s nice to return to my roots and train in de-jargoning, anti-abbreviating and chopping out the superfluous waffle.  I’ve also had an influx of documents to edit, to make sure they’re well elucidated.  I know – that’s not a plain English word, but Katja’s putting on an exhibition of our favourite words, and that’s one of mine! To be clear, it means clear… and I didn’t learn that at school – only when I was doing my degree – and then I had to ask the teacher :-)

I can’t tell the story of the day I worked with Bob Geldof again… so I’ll just say that this was one of his finest musical moments.  “All the playing’s stopped in the playground now, she wants to play with her toys a while.  And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning, and the lesson today is…”  You know the rest.

My two years in Miss Bocking’s class were possibly the only two that I didn’t bunk off school or have a pretend stomach ache (although I did suffer from genuine migraines).  I never hated school enough to shoot anyone to get the day off, but I didn’t like it.  Apart from those two years in Jenny’s class – they were fab!! So thank you for that, Miss J. A. Bocking!

At least I don’t bunk off work.  Wherever I am in the country, you can always find me here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Childhood stroke, telling stories and drug dealing in Essex

This week I had the good fortune to meet a real life drug dealer!  Eat your heart out Walter White… this guy is the real deal.  I met him when I ventured into the heart of Essex to run a social media training session for a group of business owners as part of a low carbon business initiative organised by an Essex Councils’ consortium.

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While it looks like Walter and Jesse attended my training course, this is actually a stock photo that I edited myself. You’d never know it from the professional way I’ve superimposed the two photos, but I like to be honest about these things…

The training topic was content writing – brilliant for me because I love talking about blogging.  One of the key points I make during the workshop is that everybody has a story to tell.  Anyone who has set up in business did so for a reason – whether personal, financial or – the ones I love best – simply following their dream.  Before the formal introductions, as people arrive I chat to them and ask what they do. And Bow said, “I’m a drug dealer!” I think this was the first time I’d met one – certainly the first time someone’s admitted to it.

And before the police come a-knocking, I’d better clarify that this man actually sells legal drugs: prescription meds and that sort of thing. His wife is a qualified pharmacist so it’s all above board. But the initial image I had of a Breaking Bad caravan plonked in the heart of Essex gave me a very wide smile.  Now, there’s a man with a story to tell.

Work aside, I spent Saturday volunteering at the annual Child Stroke Family Support day – this year in Birmingham. (Which, incidentally, turned out to be a beautiful city!)  It was brilliant to meet so many of the parents who’ve joined my Facebook group.  One of the key points of the day is that people have a chance to meet other parents who’ve been through the same traumas, the same heartbreaks, the same worries – as well as gaining hope from people who’ve come out the other side with stories of inspiration and good outcomes.

You can’t explain to anyone how it feels to spend the night watching your child sleep, holding your own breath each time they exhale and wondering whether they’ll still be alive in the morning.  Only someone else who’s done that can really understand.  The expert speakers were fantastic, as always. They all donated their time freely: doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, senior NHS staff and a large number of the Stroke Association team.

Special thanks to Anna Panton who manages the Child Stroke project in London, she does an amazing job, which I’m sure goes way beyond her formal job spec.  Her role involves listening to families’ stories and advising them on ways to move forward and make those stories happy, positive ones.  The day is organised by a group of us and, although we met through harrowing circumstances, I feel lucky to have made such lovely friends – Liz, Nancy and new friends Sharon and Madeleine.

So, what’s your story?  Some business owners tell me initially that they don’t have one, and I say that’s rubbish. Part of my job is to find that elusive story and bring it out front and centre, so that the business can blog about it, tweet it and write articles based on that passion.  Call me if you’d like help to find your story: 020 8551 7077.

I hadn’t planned which lyrics to end with today, but as I was writing, these lines flew naturally into my mind.  ‘I could stay awake just to hear you breathing.  Watch you smile while you are sleeping, while you’re far away and dreaming.  I could spend my life in this sweet surrender; I could stay lost in this moment forever… Every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure.’  I don’t think I need to elaborate.

For the first time in three years I’m not signing off with my twitter handle… If you fancy clicking through to another website, please see what the Stroke Association does for children and young people.  One child a day has a stroke in the UK, and donations into research are always welcome. Thank you, and have a lovely week. xx

 

Diane Eve Warren wrote those lyrics.  Hands up if you thought it was Steve Tyler!

Magical dinners, implementing decisions and a dramatic blow out

Cambridge University is ancient, beautiful and verging on mystical. it’s a tiny city of charm and character that’s unsurpassed anywhere else in this world. It’s also term-time home to my younger son. He’d invited me and Ben to join him on Thursday for the annual, and extremely popular, Harry Potter dinner. It was a fantastic evening that even JK Rowling would have been proud to attend.

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Made it!

The students are used to candlelit meals in the great hall, but it’s not a regular Thursday occurrence for me to be waited on in sparkling dimness with red wine flowing and white owls flying overhead. (Should be!!)

We nearly didn’t make it to the dinner, or to the rest of our lives…  Our tyre dramatically blew out at 70mph in the middle lane of the M11.  I don’t think I’d have been able to control the car if I was driving, but Ben’s strong – and calm. His years of pounding muscles in the boxing ring paid off, and he masterfully swerved the car to the relative safety of the hard shoulder.

40 minutes waiting in a ditch in black patent high heels and a chiffon evening dress is not time well spent.  My witches’ hat remained in the car, keeping the back seat warm while our heads froze; the bitter wind whipping along the motorway and swirling towards the fields beyond.  It was too cold to even tweet!  I thought about venturing back to claim my hat but couldn’t risk a gust taking it flying along the highway– imagine that on the news reports!

Having posted our ordeal on Facebook, my phone started pinging with offers of rescue.  One of my Facebook friends drove past on his way north and spotted me shivering in the ditch.  He called to say he’d come back for me, but help was already at hand. He also offered to drive me to Cambridge – a favour that wasn’t needed in the end, but thank you very much Paul.

The RAC man was less friendly but very professional and efficient.  Tyre changed, we made our way slowly to the magical dinner, slightly dishevelled but happy to be back on track.

A near death experience really makes you contemplate life.  It’s never too late to do the things you want to do.  I always say that anyway, but I made certain decisions in that smelly ditch that I have implemented already.  One was to repaint my bathroom in shocking pink…

Many people have asked if we were saved by a magic spell or angels – or was it simply Ben’s excellent driving?  As Barry Manilow and Robbie both told us, ‘Spirits move me, every time I’m near you, whirling like a cyclone in my mind.  You’re my life line, angel of my lifetime, answer to all answers I can find.’

Could it be magic?  Who knows?!  But I do know this… if you’re looking for answers – particularly with regard to helping your business grow, you can always ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Misbehaviour, being creative and reflections of Violet Kray

When Katja says she’s going to organise an exhibition, you know it’s going to be good.  As an artist and art curator with an absolute passion for creativity, she throws her body and soul into her work – literally!

Misbehaviour was an exhibition of 2D and 3D works, installations and film by 60 artists from Britain, Europe, and further afield, that played with a wide range of forms of mischief and non-conformity.  Hence I didn’t promote my submission on Facebook… it was a bit too mischievous!!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI nearly didn’t exhibit in this exhibition at the Mile End Art Pavilion at all – but I sure am glad I did.  Not simply because it was an honour for my poetry to be shown alongside some absolutely amazing artworks, but because I met such fab people.

My favourite piece was a series of three huge etchings by an artist named Dawes – she and I spent most of the afternoon gassing instead of invigilating the crowds and she seemed pleased that I recognised a lyric she’d woven into her piece; apparently many people don’t.  (No prizes for guessing how I’ll be signing off this blog….)

I often remark on what a small Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingworld we live in, and that nothing happens by chance – it really doesn’t.  I was chatting to an MA student called Louise who, it turns out, lives in the house where Violet Kray lived.  My next door neighbour’s aunt was a dressmaker who made clothes for all the Kray women; my neighbour inherited the tall walnut-framed mirror in which Violet Kray would have admired herself while being pinned at the hem.  Is there a commandment that says something like ‘thou must not covet thy neighbour’s mirror’?  Well, I covet it!

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This is where Katja sends naughty boys and girls

Co-incidentally I was telling this story only last week to a friend as we browsed fake antique mirrors before our cream tea.  And that’s not the only co-incidence Louise invoked.  I recently ran a social media training session for an organisation called Eat Work Art that develops amazing spaces for designers and creative businesses from dilapidated buildings. With over 600 creatives working within a small ‘village’ in Hackney born out of a disused factory, I introduced my accountants, Nordens. They have a specialist stream for helping design and creative businesses and I could see the potential for a mutually beneficial collaboration.  So they met, they talked, they ate cake and they collaborated!

Then it emerged yesterday that one of the art installations I loved was created by an Eat Work Art-housed business.  Probably someone who will now be sharing my accountant with me.  How’s that for fast work?!

As Dawes etched and Paul Weller penned, ‘Some people might say my life is in a rut; but I’m quite happy with what I’ve got.  People might say that I should strive for more but I’m so happy I can’t see the point.’  If it’s time for you to strive for more and you’d like help moving forward, get in touch for a chat about social media marketing.  You can call me on 020 8551 7077, or talk to me here: @WeekendWitch.

PS: For Gill and Sue… You know social media’s reached the masses when a character on Coronation Street (Sean) proclaims to have ‘tweeted, instagrammed and snap-chatted’ his dinner!  And as if that wasn’t modern enough for the Corrie Crew, Kevin met up with a woman from an on-line dating site.  Of course it’s real life…

Wardrobe malfunctions, un-popped bubbles and posh chocs

When visiting clients it’s always good to be well dressed, or at least appropriately dressed.  You may recall that I’ve had my fair share of wardrobe malfunctions – the silk skirt that fell down, the hold-up stockings that don’t, the pink heels that caused much embarrassment at a late night networking event.  All documented on Facebook and Twitter, fortunately less so on Pinterest.  Friday’s debacle topped the lot!

It was a simple, and slightly domesticated start to the day. Here’s the background… My favourite roast potato dish recently came to untimely end, so when I saw a shiny red one on-line I ordered it straight away for home delivery.  On arrival, the cast iron vessel was way too heavy, so I left it in its (fortunately un-popped) bubble wrap.

Planning to visit a client in the heart of Essex to talk about social media, I realised that I’d be driving past the shop and could easily call in to return the dish and claim my refund.  Worried that I’d forget to pick it up on my way to the meeting I left it in a conspicuous spot by the front door.  Nicely dressed in new clothes (age appropriate, so I’ve been told), I threw on my coat, chucked my purple scarf around my shoulders, grabbed my bag and scooped up the unwanted dish, all pleased with myself for remembering it.

Opening the car door, my stomach suddenly felt weirdly cold and wet.  Looking down – in horror! – I saw that the soon-to-be-returned potato dish was filled with…. cat’s pee!!  Which was now all over me!!

I’ve never moved so quickly!! I reckon I was back in the house, washed, changed and de-bubble-wrapped within 90 seconds.  Putting my foot down on the A127 I arrived at my meeting on time, apologising profusely for the possible lingering pong of cat wee….
Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAt least it didn’t happen on Valentine’s Day!  Thank you to all the lovely people who sent me Valentine’s chocs this weekend.  I received a gorgeous box full of delicious creamy truffles and hearts from my favourite mail-order yummy food company: Desire4Food… that box made an excellent Sunday night dinner!

 

Didn’t know that Ed Sheeran wrote this:  “Kiss me out of the bearded barley; nightly, beside the green, green grass.  Swing, swing, swing the spinning step; you wear those shoes and I will wear that dress.”  Well I won’t be wearing that dress again.  (Actually, it probably won’t even fit me after D4F’s gift and a delicious, huge, heart-shaped box of posh chocs that I polished off on Saturday night…)

If I’m not chasing the cat while he’s getting up to his shenanigans, I’ll be here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.  Thank you for sharing the love!

Chocolate in Paris, a bumble bee bum and the true heroes of freedom

I’ve mentioned my accountancy clients before in this blog – recommending them to any business or individual who needs a fantastic accountant.  I also use them as a case study in my social media training workshops and LinkedIn sessions.  So I feel really proud to be included in their team activities – and it was awesome to be invited to join them for a day out in Paris!

The day was such good fun.  I didn’t mind the early start for a change, and we arrived in Paris in time for lunch.  Steak et frites, avec a bit of someone else’s salmon and a gorgeous chocolatey melty dessert that was so rich some people couldn’t eat it all – so I greedily finished them off!!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingWe saw the sights from the top of a hop-on-hop-off open-deck bus; freezing, but a fantastic way to see the city.  After viewing the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the eternal flame monument dedicated to Princess Diana, then riding along the Champs Élysées and battling our way around the Arc de Triomphe, we caught the metro to Montmartre.  In my favourite spot in Paris we sipped hot chocolate, wandered the cobbled alleyways and bought pastries for the train home.  Très bien!

The biggest thanks possible to Mark, Sharon and the whole Nordens team for putting up with me for the day – it was amazing, thank you!! xx

On Sunday I had the pleasure of Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingattending the Celebrity Guild lunch to celebrate 30 years of Eastenders.  I don’t watch it, but I did years ago, so what a relief to spot some of the ‘older’ faces in the room.  Gary Hobbs has grown up nice…  I did tell Phil Mitchell that I don’t watch it, but I didn’t admit to being a Corrie fan.  There are some things that are just best left unsaid.

Bobby Davro provided some hysterical entertainment after lunch – I didn’t realise how funny he is.  Such a nice man too – as was everyone I met.  Ian Beale wasn’t there, but a sudden recollection of him popped sharply into my head.  Gill and I saw him once, at the Middlesex and Herts Country Club (not as posh as it sounds).  He was walking by the pool, laughing and mucking around.  I would have gone up to say hello, being an Easties fan in those days, but it wasn’t to be.  Because… Gill sat on a bumble bee!  My potential date with an actor (big deal in 1983) was scuppered while we found the first aid room and some tweezers!!

Martin Kemp didn’t show up either, which was a shame because I had been practicing singing Through the Barricades.  So probably just as well.

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Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE

I was honoured to share my dining table with four heroes from Bomber Command.  Elderly gentlemen with rows of medals, acknowledgment of the fight they fought to protect our preceding generations and ensure the continuing freedom that we so casually take for granted now.  (Yet how fragile it is…)  That’s the real reason I was there…  I was invited to join their table by the Soldiering On Through Life Trust, a wonderful charity that supports severely wounded military men and women and their families.

In Martin Kemp’s pre-acting, Spandau days, they said, ‘Father made my history; he fought for what he thought would set us somehow free.’   And really, that’s exactly what Bomber Command did.  Soldiering On are selling raffle tickets (you can win a motorbike, a Breitling watch and loads more fab prizes).  If you’d like to support them you can get your raffle tickets here.  Or follow me, as I’ll be retweeting them: @WeekendWitch.

Bye Dorset, the most inspirational artist & Satnav to a happier life

I hated satnav when it first appeared.  As a lover of map books (yes, geeky, I know), I missed the enjoyment of tracking a journey through A3 pages where the surrounding landmarks and geographical features could be seen; where cute-sounding villages with potential tearooms could be reached by taking an adventurous detour.

But today, I couldn’t manage without it.  It got me to Dorset and back along country lanes and re-routed without fuss when I careered off course, daydreaming.  (Which is why I avoid motorways.)  If only someone could create a satnav for real life.  A LifeNav; imagine that.  You’d input your chosen ‘destination’ – your goal, and simply lie back and follow your dreams – or trusted route – to get there.  And if you wandered off track, for whatever reason, LifeNav would get you back in the most stress-free way.  If you decided partway to your goal that you’d do something else, you’d simply tell your LifeNav and it would provide the easiest alternative to reach your happy new one.  How lovely would that be?!

Actually we do all have that within us; the power to find it, and trust it, is the secret many people can’t unlock.

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Chérie Wheatcroft with my favourite painting: beach huts at Mudeford

Sometimes terrible things happen that throw us completely off course. The way in which we deal with those traumas, restructure our lives and refocus on the good that’s left is what distinguishes an inspirational person.  Some people seem to have a built-in LifeNav.  I had the pleasure of meeting one such lady this week.  Chérie Wheatcroft is a Dorset-based artist whose work’s on display at the moment at Compton Acres in Poole.  I’d been to those beautiful gardens as a child and was keen to visit them again, albeit out of season.

Chérie’s bold yet delicate paintings of the Dorset coast are breathtaking.  Her exquisite attention to detail and the way she captures shimmering sunlight is pure genius.  Wandering around her exhibition and chatting to her I felt a tiny pang of jealousy that someone can have so much talent, and also be lucky enough to live such a peaceful, unassuming life in this wonderful place by the sea.  What a calm and easy background she must have, or so I thought.

Glancing at the display of press cuttings, a sub heading caught my eye.  At 17, Chérie had been the victim of a serious accident whilst in hospital – where she was supposed to be recovering from being hit by a car.  Unable to walk properly, she’d left her bed at night and fallen onto an unguarded electric fire.  Her hands were so badly burned that they were beyond repair.  As If things couldn’t get any worse, Chérie was transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital for specialist burns treatment, where she became a victim of that bastard DJ whose name I won’t even mention on my website.

Despite everything, she refused to give up her dream of becoming an artist and she is truly one of the most talented and inspirational people I have met.  Please google Chérie Wheatcroft… she’s writing a book about her life; I’ll be buying it!

I’m back to reality today, Dorset behind me… for now, anyway.  Bye bye lovely cottage – I hope to see you again sometime, and I promise if I do I will knuckle down and get on with the book I was supposed to write…

I don’t like driving in the dark, but I don’t mind driving alone with just my friendly satnav and Meatloaf for company.  He reminds me, “Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night, I can see paradise by the dashboard light.” If I’m not in the car, and not in Dorset, I’ll be here: @WeekendWitch.

Fluid plans, overcoming challenges and multi-tasking in the loo

I’m feeling very pleased with myself this week.  Here I am in Dorset, sun streaming through the French doors and a light rain drumming a lulling beat against the roof lights in my little writer’s cottage.  The view of Wimborne Minster looming from where I’m sitting and logs sizzling nicely in the grate make for a an ideal winter’s retreat.

So why am I pleased with me?  Well, I don’t usually drive.  In fact, I’m a rubbish driver; the furthest I travel alone is an hour to Gill’s on a non-Bailey’s day.  I become transfixed by motorway lights and veer off course; I can’t judge the lights of oncoming traffic in the dark and I panic on zig-zaggy country lanes.  I also get exhausted.  So a six hour drive to this beautiful part of the world was a huge challenge for me, and an adventure.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe idea, as I’ve mentioned before, was to come away to this lovely home from home and write the book I started two years ago.  That hasn’t actually transpired.  I set the goal alright: it was specific, measurable, achievable (to a degree) and the timing was right.

It’s my second purposeful attempt. This time last year I ventured up to Scotland to Marion’s isolated historic cottage with my laptop, notebook and a pocket full of ideas.  That didn’t happen because the lure of lovely days out with her was too overwhelming.  Village tea shops, ancient churchyards, cathedrals, museums and one of my favourite places – Holy Island – naturally took precedence.

Which is why this year I’m away on my Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingown.  Only… some lovely people have found me.  Wayne, Lydia and David each arrived at varying times with invitations to dinner, lunch and tourist attractions.  Friends on FaceTime distracted me with scrabble and chat, and the opportunity to do nothing but eat locally grown organic food and watch Netflix surged forward in my unfocused mind.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI talk a lot about planning, especially with my clients.  Business planning is essential, of course.  But on a personal level, a good plan doesn’t always have to have an ending… It can lead to more plans, different plans, better plans, more challenging or easier to achieve.  There’s no use beating ourselves up about plans that don’t make it to fruition; we have to accept their fluidity.  My plan was to come to Dorset and work… it evolved into a nicer plan to enjoy a holiday.  So that’s what I’ve done.

Wimborne’s quaint cobbled streets, craft mill, village tea rooms, antiques shops and the largest bric-a-brac market in the south west…  What else could I do?  And added to that, venturing further south to Christchurch I found the obligatory monastic ruins and the ivy-covered gravestones that I so love.

I’m really not used to relaxing, so all this taking time out is new and wonderful.  It’s nice learning the beauty of simple pleasures, like reading the paper over a cup of mint tea rather than catching up on the news on my iphone app while on the tube; or applying my lipstick in front of a dressing table mirror rather than multitasking in the loo!!  So you’ll understand why I’m staying a few days longer than planned.  This means there may be some writing in the offing.  Who knows?  Right now Astrud Gilberto is playing on Spotify and my paperback is calling from the sofa.

The original girl from Ipanema says (in a different song): “Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams, quiet walks by quiet streams.  And a window that looks out on Corcovado.  Oh, how lovely.”  My window looks out on a quintessential English small town, but equally as lovely as anywhere immortalized in a lyric.  (Thank you Wayne; I love you!!)  I’m here for another week, but I’m also here, as always: @WeekendWitch.

LinkedIn one-to-one, passion fruit tarts and keeping a poker face

I was invited to my first poker night on Friday. I’ve sat in on some before when the boys have been round; watched, been confused, provided snacks – but this was a proper invitation from one of my clients.  I arrived late with my £10 for the pot, a box of chocolates (some missing – oops) and a handwritten list of the order of good hands.

It was such fun!  I learned as I played and managed to keep (I think) quite a good poker face.  A lesson with Ben shortly before I headed out had ended with the advice to wear a scarf wrapped around my face.  Yet, even without that suggested attractive fashion accessory, I won a few rounds (or is it hands?).  I also messed up on a couple, but I finished fourth out of eight which wasn’t too shabby for my first go.

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Marissa with her winning hand

I won’t name the client as some of their clients might not be impressed with the staff running a gambling den on a Friday night.  (It wasn’t really that, it was a few members of the team playing a game and having a lot of fun.)  Well done to Marissa for winning the pot, and thanks to Joe for inviting me to join them.

It’s always good to do something fun at the end of the week.  Although I have to say, my work week was particularly enjoyable.  I always love one-to-one training sessions, and this week I had three.  The first was in Canary Wharf, helping the owner of a small business to use social media proficiently – especially LinkedIn as he is targeting a professional audience.  He runs a company that encourages organisations to improve team performance.  Not sure if that includes poker nights, but any team activity that makes people laugh and bond has to be good, right?

I spent the whole day on Thursday at London Bridge – I’m quite familiar with that area now, with three clients based within a ten minute walk of Borough Market.   One session was a Plain English training follow-up, and the other was a soundbite workshop for effective communication.  I covered some neuro-linguistic programming techniques in that one too, which always goes down well.

That client caters beautifully and I greedily helped myself to two delicious passion fruit meringue tarts ten minutes before the session ended.  It would have been acceptable apart from the fact that I was due to wander off to meet my friend in a cake shop.  We ended up having real food (beef stew), but stayed in the restaurant until I’d worked my way through an oversized chocolate and pear cake.  Enough said.

I’m going to pack now for my week’s retreat in the cottage by the sea.  As Kenny says, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away, know when to run…”  Well I won’t be running along the beach at sunrise, that’s for sure.  It’s more likely I’ll be in an old-fashioned tea shop with a large toasted teacake, butter melting and jam dripping onto my laptop.  Mmmmmmm.  I’ll be out of wifi for most of the time, but you can still find here, as always: @WeekendWitch.

A writer’s retreat, Richard & Judy and Holborn: a magical nightmare

For some time now I’ve talked about writing my book.  As my tiny mind has wandered around future dreams and possibilities, I’ve considered how to wave a copy of the eventually completed script under the noses of Richard and Judy.  Their famous book club launches new authors and places contemporary novels in thousands of bookstores throughout the world, so getting their approval would be quite something.

I’d been thinking this just the other evening, so how excited was I to be enjoying a delicious lunch in the private members’ club at The Ivy, only to have Richard and Judy walk in and sit at the next table?!  Timing is everything, we all know that.  We also know that opportunity is not to be missed.  So did I grab that opportunity?  Did I tell them about my story, still in its infancy?  Did I? Did I???

No, I didn’t.  There is a time and place for everything, and while they were in a place where they’d paid for the privilege of not being disturbed by celebrity stalkers or wannabe authors, tucking into their double cheese soufflé (I also had that!) and Cornish crab hors d’oeuvres, that wasn’t it. (I put it on Facebook, obviously.)

It has inspired me to get a move on though, so I’ve booked a beautiful cottage by the sea for later this month to spend a week writing.  Or walking…  Or curled up alone eating chocolates…  It’s a perfect writer’s retreat and I can’t wait to pack up my laptop and head off.  Have to be patient though; this week there are blogs to write, tweets to tweet and training sessions to deliver: Canary Wharf, London Bridge and Holborn.

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As if by magic… (Who remembers that?)

I found myself in Holborn three times last week – my trip to The Ivy being one of them. The weird thing was, I also found some ‘lost’ people.  Not tourists; I mean people I hadn’t seen for ages but had coincidentally been thinking about only the day before.  Just like with Richard and Judy!  Suddenly, as if by magic, these long-seen, recently remembered people mysteriously appeared in front of me.  Holborn is like a portal to a parallel universe where missing – or missed – people suddenly turn up, from thought to reality.

Firstly, I’d been looking at some old photos and wondering what happened to the young boy who I used to drop home from school.  The following day, as I was heading to Holborn station on my way home from the Fortune Theatre, I literally bumped into him.  He’s training to be an architect now, a career I would love – and might consider pursuing if I didn’t also love social media training.

Then, the next day as I wandered along Southampton Row by my favourite bookshop, I heard my former meditation teacher call my name.  She’s not on social media, so we decided it was the universe speaking when I told her I’d been thinking about her.  I’d been a bit lapse in my daily meditation of late and in need of a motivational boost.  So now I’ll take my moon shaped cushion to the cottage and return a calmer, more serene version of me.  Or I’ll use it to balance my Green & Black’s…

Have to say though, despite its seemingly magical powers, Holborn’s a nightmare since Tottenham Court Road tube station closed.  Crossrail will be fantastic, but for now it’s too bizzy wizzy for me.  That cottage by the sea is looking more and more appealing…

Former Tourist, Annie Lennox (or Lenny Hannox, as someone I know recently called her) said: ‘Sweet dreams are made of this; who I am I to disagree?  We travel the world and the seven seas – everybody’s looking for something.’  Well, I can tell you, if you’re looking for something or someone, you might well find it/them around Holborn!!  And if you’re looking for me, here I am: @WeekendWitch.