Renee

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.

From the palace to a revolution, via a Jewish girl’s story of hope and survival

Having had a very Christian time recently, what with my Madonna poetry exhibition and falling in love with Jesus Christ Superstar (which has been playing on a loop most bedtimes), I’ve returned to my Jewish roots in time to celebrate the New Year.

pianistLast week, we attended one of the most touching and poignant performances I can remember witnessing.  Mona Golabek is the daughter of a young Viennese refugee who travelled to London on the Kindertransport – a train that saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.  Mona’s mother, Lisa Jura, was a 14-year-old musical prodigy. She settled in a hostel in Willesden Lane where her piano concertos became a beacon of hope for the many displaced children sharing the home.

Mona tells Lisa’s story so beautifully in this heart wrenching one-woman show that I bought the DVD and book before we left the theatre. I don’t usually recommend books on this blog, but this time I’m making an exception: The Children of Willesden Lane.  Fast forward 80 years and the tales of refugee children are little different…

The horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons the world should have learnt from its destruction of societies stand in stark contrast to the majesty of London’s historic buildings that survived the onslaught of war.  Buckingham Palace was one such building, struck by bombs 16 times yet luckily sustaining no major damage and no serious casualties. It endured as the beautiful landmark we know today.  I read about these bombs on-line, there was no mention of them during our recent visit to see the grandeur of the State Rooms.

It’s such a wonderful building!  That’s all I can say. If you love history, architecture or London, you must visit.  The tour has closed now for the winter, so put it in your diary for next summer.  The opulence is breath-taking, as you can imagine.  On my first visit we got told off for taking photos; not sure why. I wouldn’t mind if you came to my home and snapped my ornaments and ceilings to share on Facebook. (Or would I? Actually never really gave it much thought. It surely wouldn’t count as an invasion of privacy if I charged you to come in.  And I’d bake you a blueberry muffin…)

War and opulence are two of the themes at the V&A’s new exhibition on Revolution, 1966-1970. I was a baby then, but it’s a period in which I’d have happily floated around as an adult in swirling chiffon skirts with flowers in my hair.  It’s amazing, as the V&A exhibitions usually are: feminist, sexual, cultural, musical, scientific, fashion, political activism… all the revolutions that defined that brief period and laid the foundations for today’s British society.

I went along with Brian, who was very revolutionary in a Half Man Half Biscuit kind of way when we were dating, but is now an upstanding member of the Green Party.  The explosive exhibition could have kept us riveted all afternoon, but the lure of the William Morris café was too great and pulled us away after a couple of hours. I’m going back there soon though, with Martyn the artist, so I’ll be able to read all the things I missed the first time around.  That’s the beauty of a gallery membership – I can keep popping back. Exhibition, culture, cakes…

But this week will be less about artistic culture and more about tradition. I’m making chicken soup with kneidlach to feed my family, and honey cakes to feed my friends. Wishing a very happy, sweet and healthy new year to everyone who’s celebrating, and a happy sweet and healthy week also to everyone who’s not.

As John Lennon wrote (but I prefer Tom Bailey to sing), “You say you want a revolution; well, you know – we all want to change the world. You tell me that it’s evolution; well, you know – we all want to change the world.” Yes, the world is dynamic and ever-changing and many of those changes occur today through social media.  Let’s hope that for the coming months the changes are all positive.

If you’re looking for change within your business and hope to see a brighter future for your balance sheet, call me for a chat about social media marketing. Or ask me here.

Religious bath music, beautiful breakfasts and the most successful mailshot ever

Breakfasts are not what they were; they’re so much more innovative and delicious. I’m typing this one handed while I eat my beautifully piled up roasted butternut squash with smashed avocado, crisply basil, pumpkin seeds and a touch of chilli, topped with a perfectly poached egg. It makes early meetings in town very worthwhile! Not that they’re not worthwhile of course, but it does add a certain cheerfulness when the day starts with a pretty plate of food.

14237635_10208937517347664_5245553988248131302_nVery many virtual hugs and thanks to everyone who supported Art Catcher’s art exhibition at the Crypt Gallery, and especially to my friends, family, clients and colleagues who took time out to view, drink wine and say nice things about my poetry.  I think that was probably my most successful mailshot ever, as it put me back in touch with some wonderful people that I’d14269735_10154540549891255_2076221893_n met through networking or training workshops but lost touch with over the past however long, apart from the emails. It was so lovely to see you again, and I really appreciated you coming along!
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I actually attended three churches in three days. (Not even sure if I’m still Jewish…!) Martyn and I were guests at a very elegant symphony in a beautiful Arts and Crafts church in Sloane Square.  The Orpheus Sinfonia played a series of Romeo and Juliet themed pieces, including one I sometimes listen to in the bath with candles flickering, and a lively rendition from West Side Story. It was my first non-Christmas musical event in a church and the surroundings were glorious.  More wine was on offer, but I was driving home from the station so I stuck to apple juice.

14384128_10154540547431255_1736144235_nThen the next day I had a private mini-tour of Southwark Cathedral, that imposing building that stands in proud defiance of the plethora of modern architecture spurting up all around it. The stained glass windows depict famous authors and the lovely lady who showed me around pointed out the only church window in the world that includes a picture of a pub, as well as a Roman game carved into the ancient stone wall. The organ tuners were busily tuning the organ while I was there, and it gave me a bit of a headache so I escaped into the hustle and bustle of Borough Market, where chocolate brownies were a-plenty!

Continuing the musical theme (see how I’m edging away from art and religion to expand my cultural experiences!) Philip and I danced around the bandstand in Regent’s Park to Klezmer music, which I’d never heard of but was strangely familiar with.  It placed me firmly back in my Jewish heritage as we held hands with strangers and whirled around to Fiddler on the Roof-type jigs. (jigs? Probably not the right term, but I was holding hands with Les, who’s Irish, so I think I can get away with it.)

It’s hard fitting in all this art, music and dancing at the moment, as I’m completing a series of social media workshops across London.  I’ve met a few smaller and start-up businesses that don’t yet have the budget for one of the standard packages, so I’m offering a special reduced price social media service that gives businesses a brilliant on-line presence with regular activity, social engagement on Facebook and Twitter and direct targeting of potential clients. If you’d like to know more about this, please drop me a line.

As Paul McCartney once said (actually he said this many, many times, but not when Gill and I met him in the lift): ‘When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me; speaking words of wisdom, let it be.’ If you’re in your hour of business darkness – or you can see the marketing light but aren’t quite sure how to turn it on, give me a call.  I’m not always a wise woman but I do know a thing or two about social media marketing.  Or you can ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

100 Madonnas, ecological improvements and better time management

I’m so excited!! This Thursday sees the launch of the 100 x Madonna art exhibition in which I am very proud to be exhibiting my poetry. If you’re not on my mailing list you may have missed my info about the launch – which is Thursday evening, 6.30-9pm at the Crypt Gallery, Euston. Wine and nibbles, art, culture, 99 hugely talented artists and me. I hope you can come along! (Aside from the art, it will be a great place to network!)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI’ve been writing poetry since I left school but only started to publish and exhibit it fairly recently.  I also used to read copious amount of all sorts of literature, but time has taken its toll on my reading hours, and I now find it takes months to plough through a book. I’m also having trouble fitting in my online scrabble games right now… (Sorry Scrabble buddies!) I should really take one of my own time management training courses

I ran a training session last week – not time management; it was a LinkedIn improvement course with a security firm based in Shoreditch. We met in john Lewis at Westfield and snuggled up in a booth for a couple of hours with a laptop, hot chocolate and fruity flapjacks. (Then later, salmon salads. Just mentioning that in case any John Lewis staff read this and get uppity about us sitting there all morning – which I’m sure they wouldn’t as we ate lots, drank plenty and looked like happy, smiling customers.)

Westfield (Stratford) is getting better and better.  Karen and I took a mini cruise along the river that runs through the Olympic Park a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t long and didn’t meander far, but the tour guide gave a fantastic commentary on the development of the site and its ecological importance for London.  The improvements there – not just ecologically but also culturally, socially and retail-wise have been staggering.  I was so pleased to hear that the Tate is moving in – maybe I can exhibit there one day – that’s a nice goal to aspire to!  Sadlers Wells will also have a presence on the site – more Cuban dancers, hopefully!

I had to end this week with a few words from our present day Madonna, of course.  I chose a song from the 80s when she was at her peak. “I see you through the smoky air, can’t you feel the weight of my stare? You’re so close but still a world away.”  One major change there – we don’t look at people across smoky environments any more, thankfully!!  And the most enormous turnaround: people can be a world away but with social media we couldn’t be closer!!! I work with clients from right here in London, my home town, through Holland, Albania, dotted across America – right the way around the globe to Castlemaine, Australia! And I don’t even meed a broomstick to get there!!

If you’d like a chat about marketing your business world-wide with social media, call me today, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Theatre, theatre, music and more music – lots to tweet about!

I’ve been so cultured past couple of weeks; I’m a true theatre buff now.  Vamos Cuba was an amazing show!  I’ve been to the theatre many times over the past year and this was quite possibly my favourite dance show to date.  If you can call it a show? The dancers were incredibly agile and gave a passionate yet amusing performance.  It was vibrant, dynamic and exciting. I saw some of the dancers in the park opposite Sadlers Wells before the performance as I sat with a hot chocolate waiting for Nina to arrive.  They were very sexy men!!  South American dancers seem to have a quality that doesn’t exist outside of that continent. Or so I thought…

A few days later, Jesus Christ Superstar brought the house down.  You might recall that at our last attempt to see it, it was the heavens that came down – it’s one of the risks of open air theatre.  Not this time though; the wonderful setting of Regents Park provided a beautiful backdrop that melted away as dusk fell, and the twinkling stars added to the evocative scene.  This was Andrew Lloyd Webber at his best.  The emotional portrayal had many people in tears as the story unfolded, and it was quite simply a first class performance. but I definitely did not like the ending!! Loved the soundtrack though, and I’ve been playing it on a loop while I’ve been working.
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It was an overwhelmingly musical week actually!  Last Sunday night’s jazz in Dalston was fun.  My friend Mark is carving out a mini career photographing jazz musicians, so he invited me along to the tiny Vortex Club in an area that was once a no-go part of town but is now so highly desirable that the restaurants were spilling out onto the streets. Then Tuesday’s sunshine provided a lovely setting for the final Canary Wharf concert of the year.  We picnicked to the tunes of the American Songbook.

When I hear Summertime playing, it always takes me back to the age of 17, when George, my ginger-haired driving instructor, sang it constantly throughout my lessons. it probably took his mind off my crazy driving! I did – proudly – pass my test first time, giving me the confidence to be cocky… (Wrote my first car off a week later.  Wasn’t so proud then…)

George would tap his fingers rhythmically on his knee as he informed me, “One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing.  And you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky.”  Fancy spreading your wings?  If you’d like to spread your business message a bit further I’ll be more than happy to show you how – email info@imaginativetraining.com or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Plain English conceptual art, being trusted and it wouldn’t happen in London

Driving along a country lane in Hertfordshire, we came across a farm of Jersey cows with an unusual shed in the courtyard. From a Star Trek-like vending machine, you can dispense a litre of raw milk into a glass bottle, which you pay for by dropping your cash into a little cardboard box. You wonder if the cow’s on the other side of the shed, legs akimbo and squirting directly into the machine!

milk blogYou wouldn’t get this in London.  The box was filled with around £50 in coins that honest people had paid for their bottle of fresh, unpasteurised cow juice.  Following a whoosh of blinding steam, the creamy milk oozes seductively into the newly sterilised bottle. And then you’re free to leave, having been trusted to make your payment and leave a comment on a post-it note about the convenience of the whole exercise.  Before we left, a sign on the wall caught our eye and, following its instructions, we rang the designated number to order freshly prepared, delicious Jersey cow’s milk ice cream – honeycomb, banoffee and Baileys flavours.

Being in the country reveals a stark disparity to London.  It’s so laid back, and about as far as you can mentally go from the hubbub of the city – although, as you may have noticed, I find peace in the many galleries I visit during my working week.  On Tuesday, Kathryn-from-Ohio and I visited the two current exhibitions at Tate Britain.  The first was a remarkable pairing of Victorian photographs with Pre-Raphaelite paintings – and the second: Conceptual Art in Britain (1964-‘79).

Conceptual art is very much a marmite genre.  Many times, I’ve heard people saying ‘I could do that, I could have done better, this is crazy…’  Yes, but you haven’t, you didn’t and, as mad as you might think it is, it’s earned someone a great deal of money and status in the art world.  They had the idea to present it to the public; it’s as simple as that.

My favourite piece was ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges}’ described as ‘an example of a structure made using organic unstable materials and ordered by time rather than a fixed, spatial or volumetric composition.’  It made the boys laugh. What was originally a pyramid built of oranges is now (at the time of writing!) a wooden square filled with a low covering of fruit. The point of the artwork is that viewer participation changes its molecular form – something I thought about as I ate my free orange the next day!

Kathryn and I commented on the verbose language used to describe the art throughout the gallery and I made some passing reference to my plain English editing work. I don’t do so much of this now, although I still run training courses to show businesses how to write in plain English without waffle and jargon in order to get their message across clearly with maximum impact.

orange blog

So it was very amusing – and annoying – to see that someone had, in fact, turned this into a work of art!  It was actually a team of three people who had targeted art galleries in the late 90s to critique their press releases under the cover of offering free advice. They faxed their annotated versions to the galleries with scores out of ten and useful, interesting and – quite frankly – rude comments.  I could have done that…

Oh well, I’ll have some poetry in the ‘100 Madonnas’ exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in September – hopefully it’s written in plain enough English to get the message across.  And hopefully you’ll come along to the gallery to see the 100 pieces on display – the preview is 8th September, 6pm-9pm.

As I don’t know any song lyrics about oranges, I thought I’d choose something from the period covered by the conceptual art exhibition. I’ve written about Cat Stevens recently, but chose him again today as he’s Joey’s favourite artist (musical, not conceptual) and it is Joey’s special week. “If you want to leave, take good care, hope you make a lot of nice friends out there…”  No. no one’s leaving, but it certainly is a wild world.

If you’d like to know more about getting your business message across in a dynamic, clear and understandable way, give me a call… or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.