Making law, a magical time warp and positivity

Visiting the House of Lords is a little like stepping back into some sort of magical time warp.  Entering via the Peers’ entrance you’re greeted by a receptionist dressed in Fred Astaire coat tails and a white bow tie. The vaulted halls and stairway are so beautiful you want to lie with your head on the landing and your feet pointing at the royal blue, star encrusted ceiling, gazing at the beautiful glittery paintings and stained glass while people walk by holding golden sceptres.  Liz described it perfectly: a Victorian concept of a medieval dream.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt’s an honour to be invited to watch a parliamentary debate in the House of Lords.  We sat quietly in the impressive Moses Room and witnessed an embryonic act begin to unfold.  I can honestly say it was truly awesome!  Baroness Wheeler led the debate on childhood stroke, with a number of Peers from various political parties supporting the cause.

Their speeches were well planned, comprehensive and structured to fit precisely into their allocated time slots.  Not a second of that precious hour was wasted: as one Lord or Lady finished speaking, the next person was on their feet before the previous bottom was even back on its red leather seat.  But more importantly, they were passionate and heartfelt; they put across a compelling argument for government intervention to support research, medical guidelines and after-care.

My friends and I have put in three years’ hard work to raise awareness of childhood stroke, so seeing it actually coming to fruition was the highlight of my week.  There’s still a lot of work to be done, but (hopefully!) it’s onwards and upwards from here.  A very positive day!

In fact, the theme of positivity has been overarching this week.  Someone began a chain Facebook post whereby everyone had to list three positive events each day.  David nominated me; I was a safe bet: I rarely have trouble finding the silver lining.  On Thursday I successfully delivered the final social media training session of a series of five – and was very happy to announce that I’ve won a contract to deliver another five starting in August.  Signed up a couple of new training clients and I’m meeting this coming week with three prospective social media management ones – so all in all it’s very positive on the business side.

Being snowed under isn’t always great though, as it can be hard to juggle the work/life balance.  That’s why I always try to tie in my meetings with something that’s not work-related and counts as food for the soul!  So my positive challenge week included two lunches with friends, huge Toblerone cake at Southbank followed by a boat ride along the Thames to Greenwich, a night out for Stef’s birthday, dinner at the Waldorf with my BFF and mango ice cream wandering around Covent Garden at midnight.  One of these days I’m going to find time to sleep…..

The artist formerly known as a squiggle says, “Can U sleep nights?  Do U dream straight up or do U dream in W’s?”  It’s positivity!!  Whether I’m awake or asleep, I’m positive that you’ll find me here: @WeekendWitch.

Plain English dreams, lost in London and Galileo Figaro Magnifico

If you were in the UK on Thursday night, there’s no way you could have missed the fantastic storms that lit up the world with shards of lightening zigzagging across the purple sky.  Unless you’re my brother-in-law, who slept soundly through it all like a worn-out little kitten.

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Fab photo taken by Tony Simmonds – Hove, Sussex. With many thanks to all my Facebook friends who supplied pics and links x

Lying in my bed at 3am, I remembered that someone once told me to unplug major electrical items.  So I crept downstairs where the boys were still watching a film, and ran around unplugging everything like a crazy woman.  Forgot the wifi router though, and woke up on Friday to find no internet!!  Unable to work from home, I baked a cake then headed out in search of 21st century connectivity.  Huge thanks to my clients, Nordens, for putting up with me all day!

During the storm, alarms were going off all over the place.  A nice chap called Vince who’s attended a couple of my social media training sessions must have been busy as a result – he’s a specialist in alarm systems, CCTV and all that. Strange the things that spring to mind when you’re listening out for thunder.

The day of the storm had been ridiculously hot. I left a meeting at parliament at 2 o’clock heading to a potential new client in Pimlico.  Turned out to be a 20 minute walk from the station – not in flowery flip flops this time, but high heeled, hot shoes – and I actually felt as if I was walking through a wall of tangible pressure.  It was so weird, like I had to push the air away to get through.  (Before you ask, no, I hadn’t been at the Pimms at lunchtime!!)  And to top it off, I got lost.  The silly iPhone map took me a horribly long way round, past beautiful cream painted Georgian houses that I couldn’t admire because I was suffocating.

It brought to mind someone else who Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingattends my social media sessions: Francesca writes London guide books with simple maps – and boy, could I have done with one of those that day.  Her ‘Step Outside’ London guides are actually for children, but they’re so beautifully illustrated and charming that they’re a pleasure for anyone with a love of London.  Must admit, I loved it a little bit less after the aimless wandering then rush hour tube trip home.

Aside from running a workshop on Social Media Strategy this week, I have a couple of Plain English sessions booked.  I’ve also been creating website content and de-jargoning technical blogs recently, for clients’ audiences that don’t need to know the specifics.  I do love a linguistic challenge.  I completed a plain English edit for a company abroad a couple of weeks ago, relating to extremely high tech computer software components – of which I knew nothing.  (I do now!)  The end article was far removed from the initial draft and received excellent reviews when it was published in the glossy Telegraph IT supplement.  Sometimes I wonder if I dream in plain English…

If you’re wondering how copywriters can turn a gobbledygook concept into a coherent and easily understandable text, I’ll tell you in the Gibb Brothers’ own words.  And that’s what it really boils down to:  “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away…”  (Sung so beautifully by Ronan Keating last week, but I still prefer the ancient Rita Coolidge version!)

I think this may have been my first blog in three years to talk about the weather. Whatever it’s like this week, have fun! And if you need me, you can find me here as usual, but with an ice cream: @WeekendWitch.

(Title lyrics by Freddie, of course.)

French bikes, French lunch, French everything

It’s been a very French week for me. Started with Monday’s faux pas when I buggered up my quarterly mail shot to 600 people by typing in the wrong code to pick up everyone’s first name.  The good news is that, when I emailed to apologise, I had my best mailshot response ever.  It’s been brilliant to reconnect with a few people I haven’t seen for ages and new lunches booked in the diary always makes me happy.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingThat email was about using the topical Tour de France as a springboard for Monday’s social media posts.  A group of us took a picnic and watched as the blink-and-you-missed-it event passed by.  As the cyclists whizzed through London on their way to the Palace there were dozens of opportunities to tweet, post and blog. Londoners also had a field day on Pinterest!

Then on Wednesday, we popped over to Paris for lunch.  One of my Facebook friends asked if I’d eloped with a Tour de France cyclist, which made me laugh.  I’d have liked a ride on the handlebars but no one stopped to pick me up!  Eurostar got me there just as efficiently; a little less environmentally friendly but a lot more comfortable than on a bike.

Paris is such a beautiful city and the Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingmorning in Montmartre was the highlight of the day.  True Parisian style: its ancient cobbled streets winding around pretty buildings adorned with flowering window boxes between paint-peeling shabby chic shutters.  That was a long sentence for a plain English writer, but hey ho!  Like the sentence, we packed a lot in.  First, the petit train took us from the Dali exhibition to Moulin Rouge, then back up the steep hill to Sacre Coeur.  Next stop was the Musée de l’Orangerie, followed by a walk in the rain through Jardin de Tullieries towards an obligatory visit to the Louvre.  You can’t visit Paris without saying bonjour to the Mona Lisa. Then a taxi ride to Notre Dame (no, I didn’t see him) followed by a boat trip to the Eiffel Tower.

Driving rain failed to dampen the day, but by the time we walked along the Champs-Elysée I had puddles in my flip flops.  So we stopped for French onion soup and French fries in a French bistro and watched the world and their brollies go by.

The French theme trickled into Thursday, with a delightful – and very English! – chocoholics afternoon tea at the Hilton in Park Lane.  Little French Fancies adorned the top tier of the cake stand.  I posted photos of those delicious chocolate creations all over social media. So, a très bonne week.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingBack to Park Lane for yesterday’s fantastic concert in Hyde Park.  Tom Jones headlining the event was always going to be amazing – and he certainly didn’t disappoint! Stef and I were right at the front, and WOW!! Has the man still got it?!!  (Yes, it was rhetorical…)  Can’t discuss the Facebook knickers conversation here as this is, after all, a professional business blog!  But, needless to say, would have to have been French knickers!!

Boyzone were also brilliant – I wasn’t a huge fan in their early days, but they put on a great show, and it was quite touching how they still include Stephen Gately in their videos and commentary.  10CC: fab as always, Little Mix: hot dancers.  Sunshine, colourful drinks, dancing, laughing – what better way to spend a Sunday?

You‘re probably expecting some TJ lyrics now, but had to end with this.  Hopefully no one will think the video is too raunchy for a Monday morning… “Paris is calling.  Falling, we’re falling, we’re falling, we’re falling.  Lips close, then blossom like a rose, embrasser c’est Francais, embrasser c’est Francais.”   Suivez-moi ici: @SorcièreDeFinDeSemaine

LinkedIn photos, squidgy cakes and £1billion of business

£1,000,000,000 worth of business…  Wow!! That’s a lot of money coming in.  I’ve mentioned Fit for Legacy (FFL) before; it’s the organisation based in Canary Wharf that provides support to businesses in and around neighbouring boroughs.  On Tuesday night, they held a party to celebrate the amazing achievement of bringing a staggering £1bn worth of business into the area!!  I’ve only been a FFL training provider for eight months (social media and time management) and I’ve met some fantastic people during that time, so I was really proud to be invited.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingI trotted off to the East Wintergarden in my long purple dress and high heels – the relevance of this will become clear later…  Over 200 businesses were represented in the tall glass building overlooking the evening sun-kissed river.  I usually enter these events with my eyes firmly fixed on who to say hello to first – after all, networking is the key to being remembered.  But on this occasion, I was sidetracked the second I stepped onto the marbled mezzanine: the longest, most colourful, most beautiful array of cupcakes stared up at me, simply begging me to take a bite.

Hope Mutongwizo is the owner of Vanilla Orchid Bakery and creator of these fantastic delicacies.  My favourite was the red velvet with a thick, sugary, buttercream swirl and a raspberry.  I liked it so much that at the end of the evening I ‘stole’ eight cakes – and this is where the long dress and stilettos became a bit problematic.  Along with a couple of glasses of red wine and the slippery looking flight of green glass stairs facing me, I knew I’d have  a problem balancing the eight ribboned boxes on my journey home.

As if by magic, my friend Mark from the Barking Enterprise Centre appeared with car keys and a smile – and the kind offer of a lift home.  So I tricked him into helping me sneak out the cakes quietly and unobtrusively… which would have been fine had I not dropped one and cried out loudly in horror as it squidged across the floor.  (Don’t worry, it wasn’t wasted.  Mark scooped it up and put it on the edge of the table, and we later saw someone carrying it away! Oh dear.)  Turns out crawling around in a long dress in a puddle of buttercream is the key to being remembered.

I first met Hope when she attended one of my time management sessions.  (If you’re reading this Hope, thank you for the LinkedIn recommendation!)  Other people I’d never met before recognised me from my LinkedIn photo.  Ade, a business growth coach that I bumped into at one of my first networking events, knows me only as WeekendWitch and did a great job of promoting me throughout the evening!  (Thanks very much for your LinkedIn rec too!!)  Proves my point that you must must must have a clear, current and professional photo on your LinkedIn profile.

Cakes aside, the evening was brilliant. Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training It was a genuine delight to be part of the celebration and to feel I’d contributed to the success in some small way.  Karren Brady gave an amusing keynote speech about being a ‘woman in a man’s world,’ showing off plans and photos of the new West Ham stadium being developed at the Olympic Park.   I didn’t chat to her about football though.  We spoke about our mutual work for the Stroke Association and her business mentoring for women.

I’m not a football fan, but what with the West Ham presentation, world cup sweepstake and being part of a client’s football predictor game, it’s been a very sporty week for me!  No football songs this week though!  As this blog was about networking, this seemed a relevant song to choose as networking is ALL about talking to people.  It was also number one the day Karren Brady was born!

“I finally got to talk to you and I told you just exactly how I felt.  Then I held you close to me and kissed you and my heart began to melt.”  (Actually, kissing is not obligatory at networking events…!!)

If you’d like to know more about networking, FFL or your LinkedIn profile, feel free to ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

(Lyrics: Tommy Roe and Freddy Weller)

Appreciation, the JFK conspiracy and an exhibition not to be missed

The launch of the Soldiering on Through Life Trust’s ‘Eight Voices, One Story’ exhibition was fabulous.  It was my first time inside the Ministry of Defence.  I’ve been to Ministry of Sound, and sometimes feel like I should be hurled up in front of officials at the Ministry of Magic, but never this.  It’s a very serious place and I had to wait ten minutes for an escort to take me through to the exhibition courtyard – they obviously took one look at me and decided I wasn’t fit to be let loose alone in a building full of men in uniform…

The exhibition is a fantastic multimedia portrayal of eight survivors of the catastrophes of war.  Yet it’s upbeat, heartwarming and enlightening.  The ‘voices’ are people who received horrendous injuries while serving in the military – and their families.  Anne Diamond interviewed each person with the skill to bring out the determination and gratitude of survival, and their stories are each exceptional and inspirational.

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Darren ‘Swifty’ Swift lost both legs serving in Northern Ireland – now a star of stage and screen. ‘Top bloke’, as some people say…

I was dumbstruck to be awarded a beautifully framed certificate for my ‘outstanding contribution’ to the charity.  Clients often tell me that they value my work, but to be shown appreciation in such a public forum was an absolute honour.  The exhibition will be touring soon and I’ll let you know when it’s coming to a town near you.  (If you’d be interested in hosting it, please contact me and I’ll introduce you to the charity’s chairman.)

My certificate now hangs proudly on my office wall along with my degrees, a signed photo of Patrick Stewart and my nana’s wedding photo.

I ended up drinking somewhat more than usual this week.  Taittinger champagne at the MOD, pink wine on Friday during a girls’ night out…  But the best was a home-made apple vodka cocktail created by Vivienne – a friend I made earlier this year when she attended one of my mini social media workshops.

Vivienne and her husband Howard have produced an extraordinary, riveting film about JFK and Martin Luther King, created entirely from original footage.  It plays out the story, encapsulating the conspiracy theory along with the secondary tales that captured the hearts of my mother’s generation – such as Marilyn Monroe singing her famous version of Happy Birthday.

I travelled across London for a private viewing with Gary, a business friend who arranges funding for anyone seeking high value investment for a specific project.  We watched the tragic story unfold whilst drinking the delicious cocktail and dining on champagne truffles and a cheesecake that had been flown in from New York.  On screen, the images melted against a soundtrack that’s had me playing The Mamas and Papas on Spotify all week!  The film was shown at the NY film festival to high critical acclaim.  If you’re in the media and interested in seeing a rough cut or finding out more about it, do let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Vivienne.

Michelle Phillips played Captain Picard’s ex-girlfriend in ‘We’ll always have Paris.’  That links my two stories nicely.  If you’re geeky enough to know what I mean, you’ll probably also know that she sang this beautiful song: “If there’s one thing I want you to do especially for me, then it’s something that everybody needs…”  If there’s something you need, or something you want me to do, just ask.  Here I am, as always: @WeekendWitch.

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Thanks to Dennis Gimes for the group pic

A Facebook break, naughty hair and training: food for the soul

Sometimes a break away is just what we need to increase our knowledge and feed our soul.  Especially where we can learn in a totally all-encompassing environment that shuts out the world.  If you’re thinking that I sound spiritually enlightened today, it’s because I spent the weekend on a communication-focused training workshop at a beautiful retreat in Kent.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingThe Seekers’ Trust was set up over eighty years ago to promote the ‘well-being of mankind.’  It’s actually a Christian retreat, but is used by all faiths.  The training room was lovely and bright, overlooking gorgeous cottagey gardens and with a fully fitted kitchen – so perfect for residential courses.  We stayed in little cottages dotted around the gardens, lovely mini homes for the weekend.  For the first time since I can remember, being out of wifi range didn’t stress me.  I had no idea what was going on in Facebook world, but as I wandered through the rose garden it really didn’t seem to matter.  In fact, it was nice to have a break from it.  Came home to over 300 emails though!!

It wasn’t all peace and quiet.  This workshop produced some of the most hysterical laughter and excitement, and created friendships that I’m certain will endure beyond the training feedback stage.  Part of the course involved memory work.  You know how something seemingly irrelevant can suddenly trigger the most powerful memory…?  Well, that happened to me.

My neighbour in the next cottage asked to borrow my hairbrush and as I yanked out the hair to clean it for her, I remembered an incident from 30 years ago on a hot, sticky evening, travelling on the London underground.  It was when I worked in fashion; that morning, Joan had asked to borrow my brush before a jewellery review meeting. I had pulled out the hair that day too, surreptitiously, under my desk – and dropped the hairball back into my bag.  I have no idea now why I didn’t put it straight in the bin!  That night on our way home, Gillian asked to read my newspaper.  As I whipped it out of my bag I saw this naughty, tennis ball sized bundle of brunette hair rise up with it and float, in slow motion, towards the man sitting to my left.  Mortified, I reached out to grab the hair – and at the same time… grabbed a part of him!!  (Yes, a rude part!!)

The funniest thing was, he carried on reading his Evening Standard as if nothing had happened and I started giggling uncontrollably.  Gill was demanding to know why I was laughing, which only made me laugh more, making her laugh, and soon the whole row of seats opposite were giggling while this poor red-faced man stared at his paper.

Anyway, back to training…  The weekend made me think seriously about running a two day intensive social media workshop there.  My cooking’s rubbish but my blueberry muffins are edible!  Actually, Costco provided the food this weekend – even I could do that.  Please let me know if this is something you’d be interested in and I’ll look into it.

The people I met this weekend will know why I’ve chosen today’s lyrics, and it’s not simply because we chatted about Robbie Williams while we ate our picnic dinner on the lovely lawn.  He wisely said, “Through it all she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection – whether I’m right or wrong.”  If you think you may be going wrong, the right training will get you back on track.  I can offer you training courses written with love that will point you in the right direction, focus you or get you there – whatever you need.  Ask me about them here: @WeekendWitch.

Life after stroke, awesome young women and a sad goodbye to Rik

I felt so privileged to attend the Life After Stroke Awards at the Dorchester this week.  The glamorous ballroom, elegant dinner and host of celebrities didn’t detract from the reason I was there, smiling, clapping and hoping my mascara wasn’t running.  Karren Brady introduced the ceremony to honour people who’ve overcome a stroke to create better lives for themselves and others.  Christopher Biggins hosted the event and many of the celebrities presenting the awards have either had strokes or are close to someone who has.  A veritable list of stars stood on that stage, but none shone as brightly as the recipients – all of whom were totally awesome!

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The lovely and very funny Tamsin Greig, one of the many celebrity Stroke Association supporters

I enjoyed my flaming brulée along with Liz and Nancy, the friends I made out of our shared horror experiences.  Together, we’re a voice for the families of young stroke survivors.  We sat between two politicians – one from the House of Lords and the other from the Commons, pushing forward the agenda to ensure childhood stroke is more widely recognised, fast-tracked and appropriately supported in its aftermath.

It was also delightful to share the table with Joanie and Sarah Scott.  Joanie and I met on Facebook and we recognised each other immediately – the beauty of social media.  Sarah suffered a stroke when she was 18, and has won the Volunteer of the Year Award for her work at raising awareness in schools and at public events.  She wasn’t the only young person honoured… Carer of the Year went to a gorgeous young girl of just 13, Cheyenne McLaughlin, who looks after little sister, the survivor of a stroke while still in her mother’s womb.  The Children and Young People’s Courage Award was presented to Hannah Garrity who suffered a stroke at eight years old.  And the Adult Courage Award was deservedly given to Angharad Lloyd Thomas, whose life was devastated by a stroke when she was 20.  All young people… all surviving…. All amazing!!  All determined to overcome, achieve and live happy, successful lives.

It was the second time I’d cried this week, and I rarely do.  But on Monday, I was early for a networking event in a pub in Shoreditch (yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking!) so I popped into a quiet bar for a cup of peppermint tea.  Scrolling through Facebook, I was hit by the dreadful news about Rik Mayall.

I didn’t know him personally (although I did date his chauffer a few times in the late 80s).  But the Comic Strip team epitomise my youth… I grew up with Rik and Ade, Dawn and Jennifer – and my friendships at that time were sparkling with their humour.  His portrayal of a poetry-writing, student anarchist entertained a whole generation; the politics may have changed, but the comedy genius shines as brightly as ever.  It made me so sad.

The networking event was lively, despite the sombre Rik chatter.  I got to play with a new on-line music platform – Music Jelly – and it was such fun!  I created a cacophony of sound with a mix of totally unrelated instruments, musicians and tappers (don’t know the technical term for that!) using a range of iPads to control my uneducated musical choices.  I can’t explain it well, but it’s fascinating and totally absorbing, and worth checking out if you’re a music lover.

Back in 1982, Rick Mayall and co coined Cliff’s words for their masterpiece launch into TV comedy history: ‘Once in every lifetime, comes a love like this.  I need you and you need me, oh my darling can’t you see…?’  This week quite a few people have needed me to advise them on website content.  If you need me for that, or any other writing or social media advice, I’m right here: @WeekendWitch.

Fashion, D Day thanks and 100,000 social media hits

Graduate Fashion Week is one of my favourite projects every year and it never fails to delight.  The treasurer is my client, so my involvement stems from blogging about the gala award show.  He takes me along because he knows I love the catwalk environment and the whole ambience, with outrageous garments displayed in crazy fabrics and bold splashes of colour, feathers, bright, dazzling designs, gorgeous creatures in weird and wonderful make-up and carefully chosen funky and seductive music.  And, as it turned out, free pear cider.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingBut what I really love is the enthusiasm of the graduates as they step, not only onto the catwalk, but into the real world.  The show is a bridge for budding designers as they leave university and embark on their career in the fashion world, and I can clearly remember that excitement of entering an industry that’s hankered over by so many.

It’s a long time since I worked in fashion, but it doesn’t seem more than five minutes since my interview in the temple otherwise known as Top Shop; its flagship store an iconic waypoint at the heart of Oxford Circus.  In the 80s those offices served as the headquarters for the Burton Group, leaders in the UK fashion industry, and I walked into the HR department determined to walk out as an assistant buyer.  I wasn’t a graduate then; my CV said I sold balloons.  When Joan asked what experience I had of buying accessories I referred to my bedroom wardrobe – never daring to open the doors for fear of being buried alive under a collapsing pile of bags, belts, hats, shoes, scarves – all crammed untidily in and wedged in place by the slammed door. Nothings really changed, apart from now they have their own room…

Back then, we thought a career was for life.  But the fun of beginning doesn’t have to end at 18 or 21.  Through my training workshops I constantly meet people of all ages beginning new jobs, launching new careers, testing out new ideas.  They change due to boredom, redundancy, not enjoying retirement, seeking more fun, more money, more prestige.  The excitement of newness is contagious. Nothing beats the enthusiasm and passion of anticipated success.  I switched careers almost 20 years ago, leaving the corporate world to set up in business.  I had no inkling then of the fabulous people I would meet along the way or how many would turn to me for training support to help them become more successful.

Some of those amazing people are ex-servicemen and -women who left the forces due to horrendous injuries.  They were forced to begin again in aspects of their life that, to most of us, is unimaginable.  Creating new businesses despite their personal battles is truly inspirational and always deserving of a mention, but never more so than following the 70th anniversary of D Day.  We’re all free to run our businesses and enjoy our lives thanks to the soldiers being remembered this week – and those that have followed into the services over the past seven decades.  Thank you.

I posted on Facebook yesterday that it was 31 years since I passed my driving test and I could remember very clearly driving straight to college with the Thompson Twins singing In the name of love.  (Gill reminded everyone that I never turned on my lights at night; thank heavens for today’s automatic controls!)   Doesn’t time fly when you’re whizzing along a new motorway on your way to a fashion show?!  As Tom, Joe and Allanah said, “Well it’s fun to think that I’m having the time of my life.  And it’s true if all this around us is paradise.”

Social media’s all about sharing, and when I checked my blog stats for May I’d crossed the 100,000 hit mark!! Thank you so much for reading… if you like it, please share it.  @WeekendWitch

Mud, blood, Facebook friends and sniffing crayons

Well, I never dreamed I’d enjoy a rugby match!  It’s funny how things happen though, as Saturday saw me sitting by the touchline at Twickenham – ‘home of British rugby’ – cheering on the teams in the Aviva cup final!  (Thank you Marion, for the corporate hospitality tickets.) It was such fun!  Sue and I schlepped on three trains with our packed lunch, rugby tops and a pint of Pimms each.  She’s a huge rugby fan and was laughingly embarrassed by my lack of any inkling of sporting knowledge.  Even I giggled when a latecomer asked me who was winning and I didn’t have a clue…

10402653_10152424554623189_903338685512208813_nFor my few friends who have made it to thirty-something+ equally lacking in rugby rules…  two teams of very sexy men run around being incredibly violent, pushing, shoving and knocking their opponents to the ground, diving on top of each other like five-year-olds (shortly before being relegated to the naughty corner). They grab someone’s ankles and bring them down, in my opinion, for no apparent reason, then all pile on top.

Anyway, it was great fun to watch and Sue promises to take me to an early match next season – mud and blood, apparently.  Congratulations to the Saints – a triumphant win against Saracens during extra time, and with only a nail biting seven seconds to the bell!

Clicking on to Facebook at half time, I saw that my friend Simon was there too.  I met Simon 26 years ago when I first worked with local authorities and he has been one of my favourite clients for plain English training ever since.  You have to love Facebook at times like that – I wouldn’t otherwise have known he was there, and it gave us the opportunity for a quick hello between scrums.  (Is that the right word??)   I’ll be emailing him today to arrange lunch…

Speaking of which, a spam email caught my eye this week that I couldn’t resist reading.  Sunil Bali is an executive coach from Milton Keynes whom I don’t believe I’ve ever met.  I visited Milton Keynes once, in my fashion days, I think to have lunch with a leather goods supplier.  My memory is of concrete cows…  Sunil admitted (and apologised) that his marketing assistant probably spammed me along with 2000 other people without his knowledge, but this proves one thing I always say – email marketing succeeds or falls on the detail.

Viewing Sunil’s email on my phone, I didn’t see the usual “If you’re having trouble viewing blah blah blah…” that generally encourages me to hit delete if I don’t recognise the sender.  Instead, the text went straight to the eye-catching first line of his blog: “Research shows that smelling crayons can reduce your blood pressure by 10 points.”  Whoa!  A bold claim, and one that made me read on.  His theory is so true; the smell of crayons takes you straight back to childhood.  It raises happiness levels and enhances your creative brain, removing negative thoughts while you focus on the heart-warming smell.

I emailed Sunil in return and within a few hours we’d become email friends and LinkedIn connections.  Obviously it’s not as strong a relationship yet as I have with Simon, but the beauty of social media is the limitless possibilities for new business relationships.  Are you and I connected yet?

In the spirit of things I thought I’d end with a rugby song, but reading some of the lyrics even I was shocked!!! So I’ll simply say this: “We’re like crayons melting in the sunshine; I’ll colour your world if you’ll colour mine.”  Do you know it?  (Song and credits are here, on my Pinterest page!)  Have fun in the sun this week – don’t melt!  @WeekendWitch.

Protection from alcohol, award winners and a sanctuary full of love

Jump or curl?  What do you do as the light streams through the window? Before I throw back the duvet I usually grab my iPad to catch up on overnight social media developments. If I’m not in a rush, I can happily laze around with Facebook for company until I get hungry.  I thought Sunday was going to rain, so waking up to bright sunshine was a lovely surprise and made me wish I was going somewhere interesting.  Lo and behold, one of my Facebook friends had posted an ad for a craft fair being held at an animal sanctuary about ten miles away…

I’d never heard of Hopefield Sanctuary and it’s not well signposted from the main road, but thanks to Facebook, the place was flooded with visitors.  Founded thirty years ago by a couple appalled by the abandonment and abuse of horses in Essex, the sanctuary has steadily grown with tender, loving care and dedication.

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Safe from the madding crowd

Now also home to alpacas (my favourite animals!), donkeys, goats, pigs and various other abandoned creatures, it’s a delightful place to visit.  Sad, to know of the abuse these animals suffered, but joyous to see the environment into which they’ve been brought – and where they thrive.

I loved the craft fair and spent a good deal of this week’s income on jewellery, gifts and a bag of Baileys and white chocolate fudge, which I’m devouring as I type.  I found a beautiful amethyst bracelet, which was weird as I’d been reading up on amethysts just a couple of days ago.

These gorgeous semi-precious purple stones were regarded by the ancient Greeks as protection against the evils of alcohol!  Apparently, wearing an amethyst means someone can merrily get as drunk as you can possibly imagine, but will be kept safe by the gem’s protective powers*.  They also give the wearer a clear mind in business (helpful for me) and in battle (maybe less so!) – as well as increasing spirituality and an openness to whatever the universe has to offer…

photoI mentioned last week that I’d be attending an awards dinner with one of my clients who had been named as a finalist in two categories for a major industry award.  I’m so pleased to report that they walked away with TWO awards – huge congratulations to Nordens!!  I was especially pleased to hear that one of the judges remarked on what outstanding written submissions they had provided – so I guess that was a good day’s work for me!!

I never ask the female-specific question of questions: does my bum look big in this?  But, looking at the award photo, I can see that mine did!!  Or maybe it’s simply time to call an end to all the Baileys and white chocolate fudge…

So this fudge addiction makes me think I should be quoting Queen this week – yes, you know the one!  Won’t you take me home tonight…?

But no.  Hopefield Sanctuary’s patron is X Factor star Leona Lewis, so I feel compelled to end with some lyrics from her syrup-coated voice. (Baileys flavoured syrup?)  “Light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice… I’ll be right beside you.”  And if I’m not beside you, I’m definitely here: @WeekendWitch.

*Don’t take my word for it… be responsible!!!