Renee

Resilience, optimism and decoding the enemy

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Succeeding in business, being accountable and taking my hand

I don’t make new year’s resolutions.  Well I sort-of do, but I don’t tell people. That way, when I don’t stick to them there’s no one to make me feel guilty.  Apart from me, and I expect it of myself, so I just shrug and say, Oh well, shouldn’t have set myself up to fail. Except that no one likes failure, which is why I think it’s best to avoid them in the first place.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIn business, we can’t fail; it’s as simple as that. To succeed, we need to set strategic business goals and follow a clear growth plan.  New year resolutions for business… Yeah, yeah, I say that every year, then ignore my own time management advice and go through the first six months being distracted by art galleries, lunches in London and the theatre. I then spend the next three months telling myself that one of the advantages of being Jewish is celebrating a new year in September, and therefore a second crack at the resolutions whip. The final three months fly by in a whirl of Christmas plans, with the happy knowledge of another new year on the horizon and that’s the time for resolutions!

I say this light-heartedly, of course. I wouldn’t have been in business for 20 years if that really was my attitude, although I do admit to needing reigning in every now and then. I’m doing that now.

Becoming VAT registered this month means that I must must must keep a tighter control on my accounts: retaining receipts, recording on-line business expenditure and invoicing on time. It’s boring, I don’t like it.  Fortunately Kirsty, the lovely VAT lady at my accountants, will do most of the dreary stuff, but I know I have to keep up my end.

And that’s the thing with resolutions: accountability.  With my VAT, I’ll be accountable to Kirsty and the tax office.  With my social media management clients, I’m obviously accountable to them – and they come first, every time.  But for everything else, I’m accountable to me and that’s not ideal. So now I’ll be accountable to you.

Here we go… my business plans for this year are to publish some books (Jo has already formatted them), update my website and organise some open social media training workshops in London. There’s a great café in Shoreditch where we had brunch on new year’s day, and it has a private room downstairs that will be perfect for a few hours of social media marketing and LinkedIn secrets. Let me know if you’re interested in coming along and I’ll sort out some dates for the spring.

If you don’t have a good solid overall plan for your business, at least make sure the social media is well organised. I’ll be happy to help if you need any guidance – that’s one area I make sure I’m on top of at all times.

And on a personal level… the obligatory post-Christmas diet? I had planned that, but I try to eat healthily all the time and I take my vitamins when I remember. I have no intention of abandoning my chocolate collection, so I’ll just stick to avoiding bread and gluten, and aim to eat more fruit. How’s that? I will walk for thirty minutes each day and cycle on the exercise bike at least three times a week. Just writing that has made me feel pleased with myself, so mission accomplished. I’ll never double book on Wednesday nights when I have my life drawing class and I’ll write more poetry for the upcoming exhibitions in which I’ve been invited to show my work. Plans, plans, plans…

Trying to think of a song about plans, this was the first (and only) thing that popped into my head! “We’re only making plans for Nigel; we only want what’s best for him. We’re only making plans for Nigel – Nigel just needs this helping hand.” I don’t know many Nigels, but I do know about social media planning. If you’d like a helping hand, feel free to take mine.  Give me a call – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch. Wishing you a happy, healthy, successful and brilliant 2017!! X

Idols, dating a roadie and less cheerful endings

I wasn’t planning to write about George Michael – we’ve all read so much about him since his tragic passing on Christmas Day that’s it’s reaching saturation point, especially on Facebook. But it’s true to say that he was a major influence in my formative years and, being the third of my late-teen musical heroes to be snatched away during 2016, I decided to jot this down (even if it’s only Gill and Martine who read it).

It made me so sad, but I smiled thinking about dancing to the Wham Rap 12″ in Gill’s bedroom. (Half my readers won’t know what that means!) We dressed like Shirley and Dee C Lee, with floaty rah-rah skirts and distressed leather boots. Dee’s sister went to my college – I think her name was Diane, and Dee came in to sing one afternoon. Not with George, unfortunately, but it was fun all the same.

My Twitter profile says, ‘Doing everything, regretting nothing,’ yet we always regretted that we hadn’t gone along to the filming of Wake me up before you go-go. We had the fluorescent tops and glowing beads, the big hair and the wide smiles… Gill even had an authentic Choose Life t-shirt. The fashion and Wham!’s music absolutely typified our late teens.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI’ve used the phrase ‘soundtrack to my life’ many times, and this really was. Bowie, Prince and Wham! were constants on my fake Walkman, and featured on the regular playlist at the Ilford Palais – the salubrious nightclub where we spent most nights leading up to our GCEs meeting men called Ossie, Moike and Ben Down. It was a step up from the Brixton Academy at the time though, which may be why we didn’t venture down to south London for the now iconic video filming and a chance to meet George and Andrew,

We did go to quite a few concerts though.  I dated a roadie one year who got us tickets for consecutive nights. I didn’t particularly like him – I think his identical twin had the better personality, but the benefits were good… It was during that tour that we first saw George sing Careless Whisper.  He sat alone on the stage on a solitary stool, and I remember thinking that those beautiful lyrics might be my favourite ever.  As it’s turned out they’re not – but they’re probably somewhere in the top 20.

Band Aid played on the TV on Christmas Day while we were busy with the Silly Sausage that had looked so good when Kylie poked it on Jonathan Ross last week. I was pointing out to the boys how our 80s pop idols are, today, either timeless megastars or no longer with us. I pointed excitedly at George, with his floppy blond highlighted locks, unaware that he’d drifted into the second category as we pulled and twisted the silly plastic toy.

Then, of course, the obligatory Last Christmas came on.  They played a clip of it later, after the news broke, and it made me cry.

100million albums sold – that’s quite a number.  Prince achieved pretty much the same, and Bowie sold at least 140m, spanning a longer career.  I bought quite a few of all those.  And now, three of my five long-term favourites have gone in one year.  (Stay safe Meatloaf and Madonna!!) As Mr Panayiotou will still be saying long after our generation has stopped dancing, “Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend. To the heart and mind, ignorance is kind; there’s no comfort in the truth –  pain is all you’ll find.”

It’s been a far less cheerful ending to Christmas than usual, what with George passing, and various family members missing the holidays due to flu. But next week is a new year, and the start of wonderful things for everyone who believes that wonderful things can happen if you believe hard enough. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas week! I’m working today, then not… but you can still catch me here if you need anything social media-related: @WeekendWitch.

Fairytale castles, foreign art galleries and the beauty of Facebook

I spent a few days in Prague last week, having fun with my boys, visiting all the main tourist attractions and eating copious amounts of traditional Czech food. Rich and heavy (the food); poorer and heavier (me, following the food!).

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBetween wandering through the ancient castle grounds and sparkling Christmas markets, sipping thick hot chocolate and gulping hot blueberry wine, we met up with Jana, a lady we hadn’t seen for around 16 years. Jana was the boys’ au pair in the days when they were shorter than me, and we lost touch for a few years until Facebook brought us back together.

I spend much of my time now showing businesses how to capitalise on Facebook for commercial purposes, but it began as simply a social site and this is a wonderful example of its brilliance. Jana found me online a few years ago, and we’ve been able to see how our respective lives have moved on, share celebrations and little niceties, like wishing each other happy birthday.  Very minor things in the scheme of the universe, but they’re the tiny touches that add colour to our lives.

Before social media kicked in, we relied on letters and postcards to keep in touch and I, for one, was rubbish at all that.  I have a big tapestry bag in the loft filled with old letters, mainly from Marion and Gill, and a few from Mark in Bermuda. Each time I start a spring clean I open the bag but can’t bear to chuck the contents – they’re a reminder of a previous life, before social media, before kids, before mortgages.

The bag also contains many, many, many photos… There’s a big change. I rarely print off pics now, sharing instead of Facebook or keeping them locked into my phone. I shared loads of Prague photos – cobbled streets with ice cream coloured fairytale buildings, river scenes, art galleries and desserts. And photos of Jana, of course.

The art gallery was a bonus. I’m usually hard pushed to get the boys inside one without a huge fuss, bus this was Ben’s suggestion. Dali, Warhol and Mucha – whom I had mistakenly thought was Parisian. It was a wonderful mix.  One of my Facebook friends recently said, “Art brings people together. I am reminded that ‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘Eh?” I love that! (Sorry – can’t remember who I stole it from, but thank you!)

Elton’s was the song of the holiday, even though I never did quite learn the correct lyrics.  “She packed my bags last night pre-flight; zero hour nine a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.”

Whether you’re packing to go away or spending the holidays at home, I wish you a wonderful Christmas.  We’ll be around on social media right through the festive season, so if you need anything, you can find me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lovely Lisbon, not crashing and memories of Cumulonimbus

I nearly died this week.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I had the worst plane journey I’ve experienced in all my years of flying. Which is probably 45, so a long time.  Many years, many flights, many nail-marks etched into the skin of my neighbouring passengers’ palms.

I’d been enjoying the beautiful view… what’s the word? Skyscape? The landscape of the white fluffy clouds, daydreaming about angels romping across – or something equally as daft and non-work orientated.  Gill and I both have fond memories (and by that I mean we laugh uncontrollably) when we think about Mrs Holland, our school geography teacher with bows in her hair who always looked like she was dressed as a toffee apple. But she must have taught us well, as we both still remember the principles of arable farming in East Anglia, the reasons Fords chose Dagenham as its main production site and this – cloud formations.

So I was somewhat dismayed when the pretty cumulus clouds turned into angry cumulonimbus ones, then I slammed the shutter in horror as they, in turn, vanished into a thick grey fog. Two aborted landings in Lisbon resulted in the plane whooshing up at a 30 degree angle, terrifying all the passengers before the pilot calmly announced that we were diverting 200 miles to a different airport before we ran out of fuel. Or something to that effect.  I’d switched off by then. My mind had gone into overdrive wondering who would post my clients’ blogs if the plane crashed.

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

 

Anyway, we arrived safe and sound, if not a little wobblier and a lot later than planned.  Lisbon is the most wonderful city!  I’d never fancied visiting as I had, for some unknown reason, a preconception of it being a boring commercial town. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It’s beautiful, cultured and full of history.

Its cobbled streets wind uphill from the Tagus in intricate patterns around the edges of town – ‘the old parts,’ rising through the steep hills toward ancient castles and the palaces of kings and presidents. While in the centre, a wonderful city rose from the devastation of a 1755 earthquake, with grand squares and gridded lanes full of quaint tea houses and gastronomic restaurants, the obligatory gift shops and a surprising number of very reasonably priced shoe shops.

I spent one evening in a traditional Portuguese Fado restaurant. It was someone’s home, a tiny, cosy setting for the mournful, passionate performance of the operatic-like singers and musicians.  It was great fun, although they dimmed the lights and I couldn’t see what I was eating! More fun was the electric tuk-tuk that took us back to our hotel one afternoon, shrieking with laughter as the little electric vehicle flew up the hills at 30mph and we clung on to each other for dear life.

In the space of four days we visited two palaces, a 1000 year old castle, the Basilica, the Time Out food market (twice!) the Tower, a sightseeing Victorian lift, the coach museum (less nerdy than it sounds), a wonderful gallery with an additional philanthropist’s private collection, the oldest café in Lisbon (1782), the most famous patisserie with its secret monastic recipe dating from 1837 and too many lovely restaurants to remember!  But the monastery was closed and I ran out of time to visit the Cathedral or ride the trams, so I need to go back…. (I hope Father Christmas is reading this.)

When I’m on a difficult plane ride the comforting words of Godley and Creme tend to spring to mind. ‘The world was spinning like a ball, and then it wasn’t there at all. And as my heart began to fall…’ That’s my favourite 10CC song, by the way – it hasn’t put me off flying.

And in answer to my earlier question, if my plane had nosedived into the cobbled streets or ancient woodland, Marion would have posted our clients’ blogs.  Anyway, all’s well that ends well and we’re free to spin like balls, if we like, knowing that there’s always someone to set us straight again when needed. We can help if your business needs to be set on a fresh, straight social media marketing path. Ask me here: @WeekendWitch. (Or fly me!)

Illegal chocolate, more Bowie and being the number one champion of the world

When I was at school I always bunked off PE.  (And double maths, double science, RE…) I hated anything to do with sport, apart from tennis.  I had lessons when I was very young and played with Mark on Saturdays for a while, although I was always quite rubbish.  But I loved watching Wimbledon. I’d rush home to spend hours lying on the grass with the TV propped up by the window. These were the Chris Evert and Bjorn Borg days; by the time McEnroe had finished throwing his tantrums I had less time to laze around in the sun.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSo when my American cousin said she’d fly over for the Men’s Winter Championship I immediately secured first tier seats for the final. (Thank you Gill!!)  And yesterday, we drove excitedly.to the O2.  A security guard approached us in the car park, suspiciously eyeing my bottle of water. “They won’t let you in with that,” he informed us in a very I-am-important voice.

“Next you’ll be telling me I can’t take in my emergency bar of chocolate,” I joked. He looked horrified! “No, you can’t!”  We laughed at the ridiculousness and headed off towards the arena.  Inside, a bouncy, cheerful person thrust protein bars at us – free samples containing peanuts and chocolate. I took two.

Next came the security regime: bags, keys and phones in the box, walk through the sensor archway. “What’s in your coat pocket?” The security man demanded. “My free protein bars.” He looked even more shocked than the guard at the Eiffel Tower who was scared of my salted caramel. “You can’t bring those in here!!”

I think I must have screeched a little as I told him in an exasperated voice that his colleague had just given them to me. He rushed me through in a swish of panicked arm waving, obviously before his superiors could see that he was a willing accomplice to this crime… And thus, I sneaked my illegal bar of Divine dark chocolate with raspberry pieces into the O2 arena, where it sat scarily in my pocket whilst Andy Murray thrashed Novak Djokovic to retain his world title.

The match was excellent. The players were brilliant. I started off feeling a bit sorry for Djokovic, with 19,000 people cheering for the other guy, but a reminder that he’s won prizes of over £104 million made me a little less sorry for him and a little more sorry that I hadn’t attended PE classes after all.

The winner’s trophy was delivered to Murray with David Bowie singing Heroes in the background.  This was a fitting end to a weekend in which I’d also seen Bowie’s last piece of work – Lazarus, a dark musical currently running at the Kings Cross Theatre. Unlike the Guardian review I read on the train, it wasn’t confusing; it was interesting, visually stunning and, of course, a feast of Bowie songs for his die hard fans.

Whether you’re king, queen, lovers, a tennis superstar or a small business owner traipsing through London in the November drizzle, “nothing, will drive them away – we can beat them, just for one day.” I’m staying in for this one day, out of the rain, finishing my illegal chocolate.  But you can still find me here: @WeekendWitch.

Fishnet stockings, guiding lights and art in an abandoned chocolate factory

I first fell in love with the Rocky Horror Show when I was 18. Someone who had worked with Gill in film PR was able to get knocked off videos, and he managed to ‘acquire’ a copy for me. (Trying to think of a more professional-sounding synonym for knocked off so that no-one thinks I handle stolen goods, but my brain is just filled with song lyrics right now!) We watched the ‘new’ video for the first time at Julian’s on the night we met Dale. (Funny the things we remember that are totally irrelevant to the story and of little interest to anyone other than a small handful of people whose lives changed that night.)

Anyway, it’s been a love affair that’s lasted for over, umm, 20 years.  Nicole and I went to a sing-a-long a couple of weeks ago in Leicester Square, where the cinema was filled with men wearing basques and fishnet stockings, and women in maids’ dresses and sparkly top hats. We knew all the words and it was great fun!

So, as you can imagine, I was as excited as a five year old on Christmas Day when I was taken to the hotel where it was filmed. I’m sure Philip thought I was bonkers taking photos from every angle and encouraging the butler to tell us all he knew. He wasn’t Riff-Raff obviously, but if he turned his head at a certain angle and I squinted, well, you know.  I can’t tell the feather boa story here, but I definitely recommend that if you visit the Oakley Court Hotel you dress appropriately, especially if ‘the master is having one of his parties…’

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI had actually thought the film was made in America, not Windsor. Not that it matters, especially now that our world has shrunk so dramatically since Rocky Horror’s production in 1975. Nothing is too far, especially in business. And particularly via social media. Although…

I haven’t invited anyone to the launch of the next art exhibition in which I’ve contributed poetry, as it’s not in London this time.  It’s in Germany. A little further away than usual to ask people to visit, but on the plus side – cheap to fly over with the economy as trashed as it is at the moment.

I’m telling you about it anyway, in case you think it’s not too far. The project aims to create funds to bring together people of a German town and its refugees through multilingual guided tours in the derelict building of… wait for it… an old Chocolate Factory!  Katja knows this place; she grew up around it and is passionate about it, so the idea of an exhibition to reuse the lovely building formed naturally in her clever, artistic, multilingual mind.

The old Chocolate Factory will be made fit for business and social purposes from spring 2017, but its current state is “derelict, without windows, massively graffitied and somewhat beautifully haunted in its feel.”

Artwork from around 100 artists is being displayed unframed, and hung from wooden straight hangers all around its various rooms like a labyrinth of art that visitors of all ages can explore with torches and ‘exhibition maps.’ Here’s the catalogue! At the opening, broken chocolate will be served – as many senior citizens of the town remember getting broken chocolate for free in the old days.”

I’m proud to be part of the exhibition, even though it’s only my poetry that will physically be there, not me – although I’ll be there in spirit. To show global camaraderie I will stay in London and eat chocolates – there are a few left over from my birthday last week; not enough to fill an exhibition hall, but plenty to keep me happy. (Thank you my birthday wishes! They flew in by email, text, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Facebook and Viber.)

It’s hard when you have a whole album of amazing tracks from which to choose lyrics, so I’m going with my favourite: “In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, burning bright – there’s a guiding star; no matter what or who you are…”

Richard O’Brien wrote that. Social media is today’s guiding star for many businesses, follow its route and you might just reach something wonderful on your way.  If you’d like to know more, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Landmarks, cocktails and hidden Parisian pleasure

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingGill and I like to hop around Europe every October to mark the end of sunny summer, the start of a crisp autumn, and our birthdays. This year, we chose the close proximity of Paris for our mini holiday – the aforementioned hop, plus a skip and a jump, a quick ride on Eurostar and there we were, in the city of love, culture and impressionist art.

If either Philip or Alison are reading this blog, stop now! You don’t need to know what follows…

Having spent the first evening dining in Saint Germain, the quintessentially Parisian quarter close to our hotel on Rive Gauche, we popped in to a gorgeous patisserie and chocolatier to pick up some gifts. Each having friends who love salted caramel, we bought some of the gooey stuff, beautifully presented in glass gift jars with tiny silver spoons. A couple of enormous gift bags later, satisfied with our culinary purchases, we had the sparkling idea of climbing to the top of the Eiffle Tower for a midnight hot chocolate while the on-the-hour lights glittered around us.

Throughout Paris, security is comfortingly visible. Gendarmes parade the streets with their Ruger (not so) Mini rifles clearly at the ready, and every public building requires an airport-style security check. I’ve been stopped at the airport before when an underwired bra has made a spectacle of itself, but entering a tourist attraction is generally unremarkable.  Not this time though.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” enquired the bemused security guard holding up the little jars, obviously hoping for the final hour of her night shift to pass without complication.

“Salted caramel sauce, obviously…”

“Hmmmmmm. Non.”

Despite our protestations, the sticky caramel intended for ice cream embellishment was a horrible security threat to the French capital, and there was no way we were being allowed onto the landmark with the scary sauces.  So what to do? We’d travelled there by taxi, it was close to midnight and we really wanted to go up.  I’m not sure now whose idea it was to hide the caramel, but that’s what we decided to do.

Laughingly, we bypassed the many street traders hawking their neon-flashing wares and walked to the darkness of some nearby bushes, growing inconspicuously between street lamps and men with ‘best price selfie-sticks.’ Glancing around to see if we were being watched, we chucked the small jars under a bush and hoped for the best.  Would they still be there when we returned? (We certainly didn’t share that information on Facebook.)

The Tower is amazing at night, with spectacular views across the city. And when we descended an hour later, we found, to our surprise and intense pleasure…. The two jars still lying beneath the bush. Not sure whether any tramps had peed on them, or drug dealers injected them with any sort of illegal substances, but we took the chance that they hadn’t and chose to ignore all possibilities of salted caramel sabotage. Nice gifts, eh?!

The holiday was wonderful, with lots of lovely French cuisine, hot chocolate, cocktails that I think cost more than Eurostar, open top bus rides, a scenic cruise, three art galleries, three churches (where I lit candles for little Joey – and thank you to everyone who sent condolences; very much appreciated). We also managed to visit all the major tourist attractions plus a couple of beautiful lesser-known ones.

Now it’s back to work in still-sunny (at the time of writing!) Angleterre, creating client blogs, ensuring people’s social media accounts are well managed and pumpkin carving.

The only French song I can think of right now is the possibly-inappropriate Lady Marmalade… Oh, oh – as I typed that another tune popped into my head!! “Flash is fast, flash is cool, Francois sais pas, Flashe no deux.” Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but I’m still in holiday mode.

Enjoy your Halloween week! And don’t forget I’m always happy to retweet your scary pics: @WeekendWitch.

Horrible hackers, big bums and artisan food all over the place

I spent Monday morning working in the Hoxton Hotel – in fact, I think I mentioned that in last week’s blog.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that, while I was busily tapping away using a friend’s laptop, some nasty person somewhere was busily tapping into me.

So a couple of things to say about that. Firstly, thanks to those of you who alerted me to the fact that my mobile website had crashed. Secondly, thanks to the friend who had let me borrow his laptop to save shlapping mine on the train – I think it’s now been upgraded with a stronger anti-virus, anti-hacker, anti-whatever. And thirdly, thanks to my webhost: TSOHost, for quickly and painlessly restoring the site to its former glory, minus someone’s big fat bum staring up from your mobile phone in place of my blog.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingTo say thank you to them for all the times I drive them mad – and they always help me without charge and without showing any sign of laughter at how ridiculous I must sometimes sound – I sent them a gift. I’ve spent a couple of mornings recently delivering 121 social media training and support to BoroughBox, a fantastic foodie delivery and mail order company in South London, so I jumped on their website and ordered a gift box.

The carefully-sourced products all looked so lovely it was hard to choose, so being in an I-can’t-make-up-my-mind kind of mood, I emailed John at BoroughBox and asked for a recommendation. Hence the webhosting company received a scrumptious box of artisan sweets and treats to share amongst themselves.

Moving slightly away from nosh and onto real food, on Wednesday night I had fish and chips at the Camden Roundhouse before dancing to Poliça a band that Dale found through some trendy music magazine. We were definitely in the 10% of ‘older people’ – something that never pleases me very much. It was fun though, and always good to catch up with old friends.

As travelling home from Camden made it a late night, I skipped breakfast on Thursday. This turned out to be very lucky as it was a happy working day full of even more artisan food. (It seems to be seeking me out…) Charles Roc, a company that specialises in hotel housekeeping, invited me to attend a hoteliers’ conference in London that was organised by the Caterer magazine. As you can imagine, the food was amazing!! Tiny portions of deliciousness dotted all around the room, from a creamy Thai chicken dish to mini rare roast beef in brioche buns, to mango and coconut bircher and beetroot and something smoothies. And that’s just what I’d polished off by lunchtime.

Desserts were served in a bar overlooking the canal, with Rosie and Jim barges floating by. The display was an incredible array of lemon drizzle lollipops covered in pineapple icing (I think!), lavender cream éclairs, pina colada cakes and so many other delicious things that I can’t even remember what they were. I took photos. I also helped myself to a couple of doggy bags, much to my client’s amusement. (Or horror – not sure which!!)

So, with the chocolate fair stash on its last legs, I’m making up for the last couple of week’s binging with a daily stint on Ben’s exercise bike. As Freddie so famously said, “Bicycle races are coming your way so forget all your duties, oh yeah! Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today, so look out for those beauties oh yeah!”

Forget your duties? Not if you’re running your own business!  But if you have too much to do and too little time to do it, you can always pass some across.  Outsourcing your social media takes away the headache of managing your marketing campaigns on a day to day basis.  You can have a professional presence 24/7, 365 days of the year! Email if you’d like to know more about social media management, or ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.

Chocolate, time management, a charity ball and more chocolate

As you may have guessed, chocolate features quite heavily in my life.  It influences my diet, my holidays and my relationships. (Yes, really!) So an afternoon at the London Chocolate Fair was really quite mind blowing for me.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingFrom tiny chocolatiers starting out on the road to business growth with delicious samples at every turn, to a Dubai firm whose stand resembled a Bond Street jewellers, with beautiful chocolates perfectly set out in glass cabinets guarded by a surly looking salesman (?).  I can only describe him as an unapproachable security attendant charged with actively not encouraging prospective customers to taste his wares, if you know what I mean.

Dating a fellow chocolaholic, it was inevitable that we would enjoy the exhibition at London’s Olympia, and we came away with a veritable selection of truffles, water truffles, chocolate-covered fruits, liquid-filled chocolates, dark chocolates, milk chocolates, pralines, ganache and hot chocolate. I didn’t even care that he shoved a creamy chocolate whip thing in my face, smudging my make up and leaving me sticky. Didn’t care…

14647284_10154626549846255_554661864_oI started out at the exhibition pretty sleepy, having fallen asleep after 2.30am following a charity ball on Friday night. My accountants – Nordens – I’m sure I’ve recommended them to you before – were invited by the Institute of Chartered Accountants to raise money for a hospice in Essex. Following a (non-chocolate themed) dinner, we played at the casino tables set up around the room, and danced to a selection of immortal 80s tunes. It was great fun, and thank you to the tea for inviting me.

I skipped last week’s blog.  The Jewish holidays and all the cooking and entertaining that entailed meant I had to reapportion my time.  That sentence originally said ‘ran out of time’ but clearly that’s not good coming from someone who trains businesses in time management! But it’s true.  I was away at picturesque Rutland Water the previous weekend, then cooking for several large dinner parties, plus baking six cakes and carrying out various 121 social media workshops all over London. Something had to give.

14717098_10154620381771255_4381957366363002620_nTwo of the cakes were for the accountancy team – by request, a large double layer chocolate cake, embellished with galaxy counters, flake, chocolate buttons and maltesers, and a big squidgy carrot cake.  As it turned out, this was squidgier than planned, as a member of the team that had helpfully offered to carry it into the office, sadly… er… d…r…o..p…p…e…d… it, upside down and with a loud yelp onto the pavement. Still, people ate it, gravel, fag ends, dog poo and all…  (Well, hopefully not, we went with the three second rule, even though it took a bit longer than three secs to scrape it off the kerb.) All’s well that ends well though, as everyone is still alive today…

I’m typing this in the lobby of the Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch.  I often come to this trendy space to work as the wifi is good, the atmosphere is buzzing and the hot chocolate is rich and creamy.

This is not one of the 80s tracks played on Friday, but Gill and I played it an awful lot back then, and it’s probably more relevant today. “You know very well what you are: you’re my sugar thing, my chocolate star. I’ve had a few, but not that many… But you’re the only love that gives me good and plenty.”

If you need to find more time to eat your chocolate stars, or to grow your business in a more friendly and sociable way, email me for info on 121 training sessions being held in London between now and Christmas. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.