Renee

Life after Stroke, Gugelhupfs and being a nun

People on the tube are very friendly to nuns!  Following an incredibly funny girls’ night out to The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, I travelled home with Karen on the central line wearing a nun’s habit.  (Why is it called that?)  People were happy to give up their seats on the sweltering midnight train, and there was an unconcealed display of curiosity as to why two nuns were travelling east after dark.

No one seemed to notice my black Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingpatent high heels or fuchsia nails, although there was some sniggering when we started taking tube selfies and asking strange men to snap us for Facebook.  The man opposite me, trying very hard to appear sober, voiced his surprise that nuns are allowed to carry phones. I pointed out that a mobile is a means of safety for all women, and he nodded sagely, before slurring that he’d protect us with his life.  Nice.  I wasn’t intentionally impersonating a lady of the cloth but I do feel that, nevertheless, we educated him in some of the more responsible ways women should behave when travelling late at night…

So I can no longer claim to be the only person I know who hasn’t seen the Sound of Music! The singalonga… version we watched was hugely entertaining.  And Salzburg looks so beautiful; I’ve added it to my list of places to visit, along with Prague, Bangkok and Highgate Cemetery.

I had a very Austrian couple of days as it turned out, because on Thursday afternoon Liz, Nancy and I enjoyed a sumptuous afternoon tea at The Delauney.  Instead of scones and clotted cream, they serve poppy seed Gugelhupfs with apricot jam and whipped cream – and the most delicious sachertorte.  I asked for an extra slice but don’t tell anyone.

Earlier in the afternoon we’d attended the annual Life After Stroke Awards.  The awards are given to inspirational people who have shown extreme courage after suffering a stroke, as well as people who’ve gone the extra mile to support stroke survivors.  Their stories are both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Thanks to The Stroke Association for organising a wonderful day, and to the celebrities who give their time each year to present the awards and provide an extra touch of glamour to such a worthwhile charity.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe winner of this year’s Children and Young Person’s award was a gorgeous young girl named Emily who had her stroke when she was ten.  Her dad is a member of my Facebook support group, and this week will see the 200th person joining this group.  (200 people, all of whom have shared the horror of wondering whether their child will survive the night.)  I set up the group to provide a forum for these parents of child stroke survivors to shout, scream, cry, ask questions, gain advice and support, and share the achievements of their children as they slowly get back to some sense of normality after such a devastating experience.

I was so lucky to experience a positive outcome, but not everyone is as fortunate.  I count my blessings each day.  No one knows what’s around the corner and every day is precious.  There is an old saying that does the rounds on Facebook every now and then… I can’t remember it exactly, but it’s something like: Live every day as if it’s your last and dance like no one’s watching.  I agree on both counts.

It’s not often that I quote Rodgers and Hammerstein, but this is good advice:  ‘Climb every mountain, ford every stream… follow every rainbow, ‘til you find your dream.’  I’ve been reading The Law of Attraction again.  If you have a dream but need help achieving it, I’m always happy to offer advice and guidance.  Ask me about one-to-one mentoring here: @WeekendWitch.

Multitasking, networking at home and meeting a gigolo

Andrew is an insolvency practitioner based in the heart of London.  Fortunately, I don’t need his professional services right now, especially as I’m welcoming a new client on board today.  Andrew and I were introduced by Michael, a branding consultant I met at a music networking evening in Shoreditch who, like me, loves putting like-minded people together.

My initial meeting with Andrew was highly entertaining.  Rather than discussing his insolvent clients, we focused on his creative writing; Andrew has published a range of kids’ books in alliterating rhyme.  He also told me an eye-opening story of his life as a gigolo… but that’s another story!

So when he invited me to an evening where he’d be entertaining the audience at Liz Gee’s Lecture Club – with nibbles and wine – I happily accepted.  As it turned out, I’d met Liz at another networking event, at a casino in Gloucester Road, but I hadn’t yet attended any of her events.  What I hadn’t realised is that Liz welcomes her guests into her own home, a beautiful and elegant property at the edge of Holland Park.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSome people believe that the true test of whether a networking event is successful is meeting people with whom you can do business.  I disagree.  It’s simply about connecting with people that you like and would be happy to recommend to others.  I won’t do business with everyone I met at Liz’s house because I don’t have a need for everyone’s services.  But in the course of the next few months, it’s likely that I’ll meet people who will be pleased for an introduction to at least one of them – and that’s what it’s all about!

Equally as important in my opinion is the venue, as that’s what I tend to remember.  A casino that serves chocolate and nut cookies at 9am, a private club overlooking the Thames with mini fish and chips in teeny tin buckets, a gallery on the 42nd floor above the city of London, a football stadium… and now a fabulous home in west London with luxurious furnishings and an eclectic gallery of artwork adorning the walls.

It was such a lovely environment to be in that it was more like being at a private cocktail party than a business event. Huge thanks to Liz and Rowland for their hospitality.  How great for them to be able to network right in the comfort of their living room… most of us social network from home – in my case that involves more chocolate than wine.

I got the bus to Holland Park that day, a hot and airless Boris bus… then enjoyed by a gentle stroll through the gorgeous park.  It followed an afternoon stuffing myself at Choccywoccydoodah (yes, more chocolate) so the inertia of a bus ride was good – and it certainly beat the tube on a warm summer’s day.  Although the tube ride into town is time I usually utilise to paint my nails.  Well, multitasking is often the key to getting everything done.  (But not always.  Sometimes a solid time management plan does away with the need to multitask and allows you to focus clearly and achieve more.)

A wise man once said: “You can spend all your time making money; you can spend all your love making time.”  If you’d like help managing your time to be more productive, or fancy a little networking, give me a call.  Or chat to me here: @WeekendWitch.

(That wise man was Don Henley.)

Border towns, Tibetan tea rooms and the heart of a warrior king

I’m spending a few days in the Scottish borders with Marion this week.  Some of my social media clients know Marion – she manages twitter accounts and Facebook posts, and is generally invaluable to me.  Non-clients may know her as my friend of 32 years – there’s not much we don’t know about each other, that’s for sure.  We worked together in our first jobs (substitute ‘laughed’ for ‘worked’) and we’re working together again now (sensibly).

I didn’t fly north strictly for a holiday; I was working in Edinburgh last week, running Plain English Business Writing sessions for a team from a local university.  So it seemed like a good idea to combine it with a trip to see Marion.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingWe’ve had such fun.  I always love to visit Kagyu Samye Ling, and this trip was our fourth visit to the peaceful and colourful monastery in as many years.  So we were surprised to discover that we hadn’t ever taken full advantage of the wonderful place!  It turns out that there’s more to the site than the Tibetan tea rooms where we like to take afternoon lime-mint tea and eat cheesecake, freshly baked in the monastic kitchen.

This time, we spent an hour in the glorious prayer hall.  We didn’t exactly take part in the service, but we observed the monks chanting and praying.  It was absolutely spellbinding.  The temptation to join in was strong, but I simply adopted my meditation pose and let the sound of the cymbals crescendo around me.  The sumptuous hall was heavily decorated in red and gold leaf and the Buddha smiled down on us as the chanting increased in speed and volume – it was bordering on surreal.

It was such a contrast to the previous 11264985_10153416474746255_5175802288702976955_nday’s visit to an ancient ruined monastery in Melrose.  The serenity of the ancient abbey belies its tortured past.  Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in a small grave in the manicured gardens.  The medieval warrior king is fondly remembered locally as a national hero for his fight to gain Scottish independence.  A source nearby said, “He was a bit like Alex Salmond but less aggressive…”  (Far be it for me to comment on politics in this neutral blog.)

We visited the small border town in cultural mode for the annual Book Fair.  Last year Jennifer Saunders headlined; we’d have loved to have seen her.  This year it’s Dom Joly and Andrew Marr.  I’d have liked to have bumped into him too as, like me, he’s a spokesperson for The Stroke Association.

We stopped off for a late lunch in the pretty town of Melrose – and I’d like to give a quick shout-out to the lovely lady in the Apples for Jam tearoom and gallery.  She bravely left me in charge of the shop while she popped out to buy some gluten-free bread to serve with my soup – how’s that for excellent service?!

A visit to Floors Castle followed – a real-life Downton Abbey that’s partly open to the public: another nice tea room.  Then a garden centre – yes… more tea and cakes.

It’s late on Sunday and I’m struggling to think of a Scottish song.  But I’m here in the borders, so this is almost appropriate. (Yes, it’s a stretch, I know, but the sheep are bleating noisily and the cockerel doesn’t seem to have settled down for the night so there’s too much going on for me to run through songs in my mind.)  ‘Please forgive me for my sins; yes, I swam dirty waters but you pushed me in.  I’ve seen your face under every sky, over every border and on every line.  You know my heart more than I do, we were the greatest, me and you.’

No one’s pushing anyone in any waters, but if you believe you can fly, you probably can.  (But don’t try it at home.)  I’ll be back in London before the week’s out; in the meantime, I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

(If you didn’t already know, the lyrics are by Adele.)

Fashion week, reminiscing with Jeff Banks and being in the spotlight

It was so hot at the Graduate Fashion Week in every sense of the word.  It was especially hot sitting at the front of the catwalk!  While the spotlights were trained on the models and Gok Wan, they managed to encompass us too.  Luckily our goody bags included a bottle of cold chocolate milk; unluckily (for those sitting around us) I cooled down by taking off my dress… Aubergine silk is far too warm against skin under the glare of the super-troupers.

It was an awesome show with fashion graduates from around the country presenting their capsule collections in the hope of securing a £10,000 prize and – better still – a plum job in the fashion industry.  I love being there! The energy level is so high and the students’ excitement rubs off on everyone.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe champagne is always flowing in the VIP suite, but this year was the added bonus of a delicious looking buffet.  It was so nice I tweeted it. Being the first person to greedily help myself to a plate of perfectly pink, cold roast lamb and a beautiful pale green salad of avocado, asparagus, peas and edamame, I thought it polite to take a restrained portion initially then creep back for seconds after other people had eaten.  Only that didn’t happen.

Within seconds of sitting back down, two official and very cross looking waitresses marched in with a large trolley and methodically removed the platters with lightning speed.  As they prepared to march back out, one reported into her walkie-talkie, “This buffet was taken to the VIP suite by mistake instead of to the judges’ room.  We’re on our way!!”  And off they scooted, glaring at my half-filled plate with unbridled annoyance.  It was like Stringfellows all over again – only this time I didn’t put the food back.  (Didn’t tweet that!)

I had the good fortune to bump into fashion designer Jeff Banks, whose clothes graced my wardrobe throughout the eighties.  There was a branch of Warehouse at Oxford Circus that I had to pass to get to the station, and the knitwear collection had a habit of calling me in.  In the nineties he worked with my mum, creating the Thomas Burberry collection.  Marion remembers him sending my mum a huge bouquet but I’d forgotten that.  He remembered though!

Congratulations to all the Graduate Fashion Week participants, finalists and, of course, the winners – especially the winner of the George Gold Prize!  That talented lady, Hannah Wallace, wins a nice wad of cash and will have her collection on sale later this year in Asda.  (Thank you Mark, for the invitation.  (See, I can spell your name right!))

Another talented lady who deserves a mention this week is Oli’s friend Rebekah Miron Clayton.  An emerging scriptwriter and poet, Rebekah’s work has been selected by a panel including Quentin Blake to be published in The Mays Anthology 2015!  It’s a huge achievement for a university student with a packed timetable, especially during exam season!

Agnetha said, “I was sick and tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow.  All I do is eat and sleep and sing, wishing every show was the last show.” I sometimes feel like that’s all I do too, but replace eat with work for a more accurate scenario, and make it ‘sing badly’ for complete authenticity.  And I always crave the next show.  (So nothing like that at all, really…)

I have no plans to visit Glasgow but I’ll be working in Edinburgh this week, then staying with Marion in the beautiful Scottish Borders.  If you’re north of Hadrian’s Wall you might see me there.  Or, as always, you can see me here: @WeekendWitch.

Favourite words, artistic writing and being back in school

A few months ago I wrote how my favourite teacher, Miss Jennifer Ann Bocking, was to be the VIP guest at a primary school reunion. Well that reunion took place this Saturday and everything I wrote about that wonderful lady still holds true.  So, in case you missed me raving about her the first time, here (again) is my memory of the most inspirational, kind and caring teacher of the 20th century.

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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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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Back in our old classroom

Miss Bocking taught in our suburban primary school for 33 years!!!  That’s almost 1000 children who enjoyed their final years in primary school and learned to love learning.  Those of us who attended on Saturday found out about it through a Facebook group – what did we do before Facebook, eh?  In that smaller-than-remembered school hall alone, the power of social media brought together four generations of Facebook users!

Miss Jenny Bocking arrived at the reunion looking as cheerful as I remember her, seemingly slightly smaller, although I’m obviously considerably taller than my 11-year-old self.  She was absolutely charming and engaging as she entertained us with tales of days gone by and updates of other teachers.  It was such a pleasure to be there, surrounded by people who also treasure their memories, all of us being inspired – yet again – by a teacher who still knows how to weave magic in the classroom.

High school knocked out my desire to learn and I was in my thirties when I embarked on my degree.  “Why didn’t you tell her you have a Masters?” My mum asked.  “Because I was too busy reminding her about the woolly beanie hats you knitted for everyone at Christmas…”

I loved art at school, and ‘Favourite Words’ is a touring art exhibition that kicked off on Saturday night at a private gallery in Walthamstow.  It’s part of the Walthamstow and Leytonstone Art Trails that will culminate in a showing at the Olympic Park.  I am showing three pieces in the exhibition, which depicts words that we like for what they mean, how they sound, their cultural value and many other reasons.

Katja, the lovely art curator, always Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingsupports and encourages me.  In my Miss Bocking days I showed talent and won a place at art college – which I chose not to accept at the last minute.  (The path not taken.)  The standard of my artistic offering has declined shamefully since school and I usually submit poetry for Katja’s shows rather than visual art.  This time, however, I doodled in the style of a school book cover, so quite in keeping with the school reunion theme!

Thought it would be appropriate today to quote the song that was number one the summer we left Miss Bocking’s class: “Ooh it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good…” (I was surprised to see that seven people wrote this – including Donna Summer, of course – but also Barry Manilow!  A lot of lyricists for a song with only 17 words!!  (18, if you count ‘ooh.’)

I liked writing at school, I liked writing for Katja’s art exhibition and I like writing now.  If you’d like to find about my writing services for blogs and social media, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Three awards, a pool party and strawberry daiquiris in the purple rain

One of the best things about my job is sharing in celebrations with happy clients!  So Thursday night’s award ceremony for Nordens was quite amazing.  Where most accountants are still stereotyped as boring number-crunchers with grey suits and sensible shoes, the team at Nordens are such fun.  It’s a dynamic firm with a bunch of funny, brilliant people who thoroughly deserve their accolades.

I wrote three award nominations for the company and they waltzed off with… three awards!!  When the first was announced – training firm of the year – Sharon, the practice manager, scooped me up and took me on stage with the team to collect the trophy.  It was tempting to sing; we have karaoked together in the past and our history of Billy, don’t be a hero predates our working relationship!  (Yes, yes, I know karaoke is not a verb, but it should be!)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe company has been highly commended repeatedly, and Joe – a very cute accountant – added yet another winner’s trophy to his collection for outstanding young accountant of the year.  (No, I’m not on commission…)  I spent a lot of the evening posting on Facebook and tweeting – that’s what social media’s there for, right?!

We carried on celebrating at the weekend with a fantastic pool party.  Pleased to say I didn’t fall in, even when dancing pretty close to the edge.  Again, no karaoke (to everyone’s relief) but lots of singing along with the band.  It had been a long time since I’d drunk strawberry daiquiris so I was very excited to see the barman whizzing up a pink mush in his blender.  The glass was freezing; quite different to my first one, which I still remember clearly…

I was 15 then, and staying with cousins in Florida.  They ordered my first daiquiri, then my second – and maybe a third, I can’t remember all the details.  But several (!!) years later it remains a drink that brings back precious memories. (Although I’m sure it was creamier back then?)

I haven’t seen those cousins for a while, but the crazy Vegas boy has been in London for a flying visit.  (The cousin I met on facebook.)  We spent the day in Cambridge, eating pasties and clotted cream (not together), finding spooky artworks and wandering through the filtered sunshine.  Surprisingly, he avoided splashing into the water on Saturday night.  He left before I started dancing too, taking his Hawaiian garland and English accent back to America.  (Bye bye Stephen, see you in November!)

The band finished their set with a song that holds lots of memories too (not of underage drinking): “I only wanted one time to see you laughing.  I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.”  Laugh, celebrate, have fun, win things.  Then tell people about it on social media! If you need help with any of this, give me a call.  Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Suffragettes: The fight the women fought and that chocolate fight

I’m all over the place at the moment!  Cirencester last week, Ealing this week, Staines next week – three or four days at a time, living out a suitcase, surviving on sushi in my hotel room, collecting mini toiletries bottles…  My cat barely recognises me when I get home.

This week I’m back to my roots: training people to write more clearly using plain English.  It’s a bespoke course designed for the business that booked me, and I love people’s reactions when they realise it’s not simply a lesson in English grammar or a telling-off for using jargon.  The training carries on through to next week, but I’ll be heading home on Thursday night in time to cast my vote…

If I’d been born in an earlier century I definitely would have been a suffragette.  And it would have been easy enough to get involved, as the suffragette movement was bolstered from a tiny cottage just a couple of miles from my home.  There are two influential local women that merit a mention during this politically-charged week: Sylvia Pankhurst and Ethel Haslam.

Sylvia Pankhurst’s mum founded the suffragette movement, so she was definitely a lady to be reckoned with.  In those days, this was a quiet, rural area and Sylvia Pankhurst’s arrival, with an anarchist Italian boyfriend in tow, scandalised the neighbours. While setting up the East London Federation of Suffragettes, their home became described as the ‘centre for radical thought.’  And as if that wasn’t enough for the delicate Essex ladies, the couple shocked the community even further when a baby son arrived and still no wedding ring.

Ethel Haslam was probably considered more respectable, holding the responsible position of branch secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Ilford.  With her band of ‘sisters’ she would have campaigned for women’s equality in work and politics, handing out leaflets outside the very station I sometimes use for a fast-track ride into Liverpool Street for networking events.  If we’re connected on LinkedIn, you’ll know that, before running my own business, I worked in recruitment for five years.  The office where I interviewed people and changed their lives is opposite the station in Cranbrook Road; and, it turns out, Ethel Haslam lived in that same road – in a house that is now (to my delight) a cake shop!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut the story that interests me most concerns the boating lake in Valentines Park, where I can often be found during the summer, floating along pretending to be the Lady of Shalott.  It seems that Ethel and her comrades were sailing in the centre of the lake, waving a purple banner emblazoned with their motto: ‘Believe and you will conquer!’  Their peaceful protest was disturbed by a gang who began throwing – would you believe it – chocolates, at them!  Don’t think I’d have minded that.  Wonder what year Green & Black’s butterscotch arrived on the London shelves…

Ethel’s purple banner reminds me of The Stroke Association’s purple banners to promote National Stroke Month.  I currently have one as my Facebook cover pic.  They have the less provocative message, ‘Make May Purple,’ but I can’t help thinking that Ethel’s believe and conquer slogan is appropriate there too.

Writing this in my hotel room with a slightly fussy wifi connection, I didn’t want to spend too long thinking about lyrics.  So when these flew into my mind I decided to go with them. “From Kensington to Billingsgate one hears the restless cry; from every corner of the land womankind arise!  Political equality and equal rights with men – take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!”

Although I’m far away this week, I’ll be home on Thursday to vote.  Wouldn’t dream of missing it after the battle those women fought to give me the right to do so.  In the meantime you can always find me here: @WeekendWitch.  (PS – I’ll be listening to Suffragette City as I drive to the polling booth.)

(Lyrics courtesy of Sherman, Sherman and Drewe.)

Impressive people, Your Business Community and speed-dating (sort of)

Have you ever been speed-dating?  Me neither.  But I attended my first speed-networking this week and I’m pretty sure it’s the same sort of thing!  the principle’s the same, anyway.  Forty people sitting in two opposite lines, swapping phone numbers, shuffling along every two minutes and rotating at the end.  Quick, quick, quick.  Hoping there will be someone you can hook-up with.  I mean link-in with.  One minute to listen and pitch is enough if you do it right.  The evening was really good fun.  At times it was hard to hear, concentrate and yoyo along the row through all the loud chatter and laughter, but that added to the challenge.

I met some brilliant people.  The event was arranged by a new organisation called Your Business Community set up by Ted, a man I met a couple of years ago at another networking event.  Ted sought me out that day… he’d been an avid reader of my blog for some time and recognised that we had a fair amount in common.  So he approached me with a conversation about Fleetwood Mac and, I think, something chocolate-related.  Of course I spent the rest of that afternoon with him and we linked-up on LinkedIn and kept in touch afterwards.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThere was no chocolate at this event, although the wine was flowing and the roving buffet was lovely.  I managed to drop a goat’s cheese and caramelised red onion canapé down my silky purple dress – at least not down my bra like that time at the opera – and I definitely handled it more elegantly this time.  Practice makes perfect!

I often meet people that impress me at these events, but I was blown away by one person.  Ben Towers set up a successful web design business five years ago, expanding into logo design and print.  He currently employs 15 people and is looking to continue growing the business this year.  Ben’s success is a remarkable achievement for any start-up, but what’s incredible is that he is only 16 years old.  He started his business when he was a child of 11!!

He gave a fantastic, confident off-the-cuff presentation to the 200 people in the room, telling us the challenges he’s faced setting up.  Web design and printing aside, this young man commanded the room with the skill and charisma of someone twice his age.  Absolutely amazing!!!

So I joined Your Business Community.  Ted gave me a special deal and I signed up there and then.  Don’t often do that, but I liked some of the benefits that go with the membership.  I also liked some of the people I met with their eclectic mix of businesses, ranging from sitcom production to French apprenticeships, and journalistic PR to Fabulous Women.  (Not fabulous women covered in cheese and onion canapés…)

No doubt you’ll be hearing more about the benefits of this networking in the months to come. And as all the FM fans know, “It’s hard to find someone with that kind of intensity; you touched my hand, I played it cool… and you reached out your hand to me…” You can always reach out to me – here I am: @WeekendWitch.

(Thank you for the lyrics, Welsh Witch!)

Heart-warming acts of heroism, bingo and a happy birthday wish

The Soldiering On Through Life Trust Awards is one of my favourite nights of the year.  Which is weird, as it generally involves tears.  A group of deserving ex-military men and women are nominated by various charities to recognise and honour their outstanding achievements, despite having suffered horrible injuries during their service.  Sometimes those achievements are heroic; sometimes they’re simply inspirational and heart-warming.

This was my third year celebrating the awards and it just gets better each year.  I work with an amazing team that organises and delivers a perfect function and we’ve become somewhat of an extended family.  I had no previous military ties, so my work here has been an eye-opener in so many ways.

Biggins and me in days gone by...

Biggins and me in days gone by…

The evening at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel is always glitzy.  Celebrities present the awards and dance the night away – well the part from 11pm onwards anyway.  It was my idea to invite Christopher Biggins to co-present with Anne Diamond this year – one of my (rare?) good ideas that the team snapped up.  I’d seen him perform at last year’s Life after Stroke Awards – another charity close to my heart.  He’s a lovely man – what you see is what you get.  It’s a quality I really like in people.  Many of the award-winners share it too; after everything they’ve been through they have no time for pretence.

Antony Costa headlined the entertainment – and he was great!  The dancefloor was packed during his whole set. I didn’t remember that he and Blue sang ‘One Love’ so I was hugely excited to be able to sing along.   That’s what comes of attending a Taittinger champagne reception – a verging-on-drunken-dancefloor-karaoke!  That reception was extra special for me too, as Oliver performed magic there to a crowd of 500.

But celebrities aside, the stars of the evening were the amazing award winners, who blew everyone away with their incredible stories of courage and inspiration.  I spent my time during the ceremony tweeting their photos and posting onto Facebook as they proudly accepted their trophies.  If you’re interested, you can see their videos here.  Spare ten minutes for them if you can; grab a coffee and a tissue and get comfortable.

Sharon and me in days gone by...

Sharon and me in days gone by…

I spent Sunday night at a charity event too – albeit on a smaller scale and without the razzamatazz!  It was bingo!!  I attended that one with my cousin Sharon so it was just as much fun. And I won a fiver!  Sharon and I grew up being the slowest eaters in the room (and made no exception on Sunday) – but we were both pretty quick when faced with chocolate.  One of our enduring shared memories is a family road trip where we spent six hours eating sugar sandwiches and singing Seasons in the Sun. I’m lucky to have found a friend who can play that on the guitar, so we’re looking forward to an opportunity to do that again.  Possibly at a party we’re both invited to next month…

Marion and me in days gone by...

Marion and me in days gone by…

While I was doing my stuff on Sunday, Marion, my lovely social media assistant, was celebrating her birthday.  So I’m taking this opportunity to say happy birthday and thank you so much for all your hard work! You do a fab job and it’s greatly appreciated!! When Sharon and I get that guitar we will happily serenade you with a rendition of Terry Jacks – or maybe something a little more cheerful.  Julia and Co, probably.

As tempting as it is to end with Terry Jacks’ lyrics, the awesome people I met on Saturday night are too inspiring for a dreary song.  These words by Heather Small and Peter Vettese are far more appropriate: ‘I step out of the ordinary, I can feel my soul ascending.  I’m on my way, can’t stop me now and you can do the same!  What have you done today to make you feel proud?  It’s never too late to try – what have you done today to make you feel proud?  If you’ve done something that makes you proud, tell me here – I’m always happy to share: @WeekendWitch.

Facebook friends, Viking women and a nice lump of cheese

Facebook has brought together so many friends, relatives, ex-colleagues and ex-lovers that’s it’s a veritable forum for matchmaking in one way or another.  Sometimes good, not always.  One lovely connection for me has been making friends with Martine.  We went to school and youth club together but didn’t know each other well, although we shared a large circle of friends.  Martine moved to Israel when we were 19, so I never saw or heard anything from her or about her.  And there our association would have ended, were it not for social media!

Martine was one of the first people to comment on this blog.  Starting out in my early days with no idea what people might be interested in, she offered me positive feedback and motivation – especially with the song lyrics!  When I considered dropping them she emailed in indignation that she loved guessing the song each week.  So the lyrics stayed.

Martine visited London last week for the first time in ages.  I met up with her and Lisa for lunch in the park we frequented during our high school years when we were supposed to be in science lessons.  The helter-skelter’s no longer there – although I’m sure we’d have whizzed down if it were – none of us are that sophisticated that we’d have turned down a re-run of our teenage years.

So Martine has followed this blog consistently for three years.  During that time I’ve developed various social media training sessions, including – of course – one on blogging.  It’s actually content marketing, which covers blogs, emails, web pages and social media posts.  I ran this very session on Thursday at Thurrock Council in Essex, meeting some amazing business owners.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAlways pleased to connect with other ‘witches,’ The Wire Witch had come along to learn how to present information to showcase her fabulous Viking-inspired jewellery range.  Using traditional techniques, she painstakingly weaves chain mail into gorgeous necklaces and bracelets in exactly the same way women would have done a thousand years ago.

The attendees also included a new cheesemaker, dipping his toe into the churn for the first time.  (Not literally – that would not be a good cheese!)  It gave me a hankering for a nice lump of Cornish brie though.

And speaking of all things Cornish, it was wonderful to catch up with my Cornish niece and nephew on Saturday night.  I don’t see them enough.  Really, they’re not Cornish – although they’ve lived in the Duchy for 15 years.  We manage to keep on top of each other’s lives on Facebook, so it’s rare to miss anything important.

Aside from the social benefits of Facebook, it’s such a popular business tool – which is why I’m delighted to work with a packed room every time I run a social media session.  I’m looking forward to reading the various blogs from Thursday’s delegates – Viking jewellery, cheese, physio, interior design, investments, embroidery, the care sector and so many more.

To sign off today, I Googled songsImaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywriting about cheese.  An album popped up called ‘The Ultimate Cheese Party’ – I guess it’s named as such because people at parties eat cheese…  Anyway, it’s a brilliant CD full of dance and party tracks – and seeing the cover jogged my memory that I have this CD!  I borrowed it from Gill around 15 years ago.  Hopefully she won’t read today’s blog so I can keep it for a few decades more…

This song is on the album – Gill, Martine, Lisa – we all danced to this – no prizes for guessing!!  ‘Toora loora toora loo rye ay; and we can sing just like our fathers.’  If you stop dancing for long enough and want to find out more about content marketing, you can ask me here: @WeekendWitch.