Renee

Global business, LinkedIn profiles and Viking Pirate Women

Sometimes when we’re introduced to people through random conversations, we make business contacts that help us immensely in our work, but to add sugar on the top, we can build relationships that turn into valuable friendships. This has been the case with Kathryn.

A client introduced me to Kathryn a couple of years ago. (He wasn’t a client at the time; he is now). I was looking for a recommendation for a professional service, and he’d engaged her for something similar. Hence an introductory email and we were good to go.

One of the most fantastic things about our digital age is the ability to work with clients and suppliers anywhere in the world. I’ve worked with businesses across the globe from the Netherlands to Australia, via the Ukraine and USA, and my lovely team are all over the place. Kathryn hails from Sedona, a beautiful area of Arizona with russet-red mountains; an oasis of lush landscape settled like a jewel in the heart of the desert.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingKathryn’s in Europe for a couple of months, so we met up to spend a day at the Design Museum in Kensington.  I once went to the Commonwealth Institute on a school trip and this new museum stands in its place. It’s interesting – the Commonwealth Institute slowly vanished as the commonwealth itself shrunk, yet today’s displays include a history of global communication that reflects the globality of our history.

SImaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritinghe’s immensely good company, and stunned me with the title of the lecture she’ll be giving later this month at a Danish conference: Viking Pirate Women! How cool is that?! She’s an expert in medieval literature and this is an opportunity to discuss something that I, for one, don’t encounter on a daily basis. Do you?

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

Doubt they looked like this in Viking times…

Princesses and queens fighting for their thrones, avenging their husbands’ executions and avoiding marriage: these are just a few of the reasons these women took to the seas – often disguised as men in order to secure their places on-board. Sounds very Game of Thrones-ish. Compared to that, we almost live in boring times. They’d have had a few tasty posts if social media had been around in those days, that’s for sure.

While Kathryn’s having fun entertaining and educating the conference delegates in Denmark, I’ll be right here in England, educating people all over the world on the effective use of LinkedIn.  In case you didn’t get my newsletter this month, I’m offering LinkedIn coaching sessions for the introductory price of only £75 – all via Skype, so you don’t have to leave your office. Or home, if you work from home. I’d prefer no pyjamas, but I’ll leave it up to you.

The session covers an awful lot for an hour, so be prepared for fast, hard work – but you’ll achieve so much! An awesome profile, improved search engine status and the ability to find the right people to help you in business. You can click here if you’d like to book a session or find out more – or to sign up to the mailing list for hints and tips on social media.

As tempting as it was to search out an 80s vintage classic Adam Ant lyric, these far less trendy words – actually quite shocking for children – flew into my mind: “We kindle and char, inflame and ignite, … we burn up the city, we’re really a fright.”  With visions of people on Tinder throwing down their reading material so they can hit the town and terrorise the community, this is a good example of the opposite image you want to portray on LinkedIn!! Agree? Let’s chat further! You can message me on LinkedIn, of course – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lyrics credits: Songwriters: F Xavier Atencio, George Edward Bruns · Published by: Lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Managing time, feeling creative and a stream of lucky escapes

There but for the grace of God go I. I don’t know who said it, and I’m not particularly religious, but I think it whenever my safety and well-being have been compromised but the danger’s passed.

I have a habit of narrowly missing disasters. (Or should I say, I have the good luck to narrowly avoid them?)

Kings Cross. The fire that was kindling as I rode through the station before the deadly flames engulfed the tragic victims. The Libyan Embassy siege. I walked passed just a couple of hours before PC Yvonne Fletcher was gunned down in broad daylight. I don’t remember now what I was even doing there, but I know I was wearing orange shoes. Pumps. Grosgrain – I’d bought them in Top Shop along with a matching jumper and some kind of weird fishnet scarf.  I was carrying one of those orange plastic basket bags that we all thought were marvellous back then.

There was no social media in those days, nowhere to tell people we were safe or let our loved ones know en masse that we were okay. All night tv was still in its infancy, only broadcasting for about a year in London – although we had that strange robotic teletext thing that was so futuristic. Whichever was you look at it, it was hard to keep up-to-date. There wasn’t even a facility for us to call friends we were worried about; we relied on them finding a public call box to ring home. It seems prehistoric now.  I didn’t even know about the fire until I got back around midnight and my mum was frantic with worry.

7/7 was a close call too. I’d overslept that morning. My mum phoned to tell me the central line was down and I realised I wouldn’t get to my appointment in Holborn on time. And then of course the catastrophic events unfolded on the news. I’d have been in the vicinity at the time of the bomb blast if my alarm had gone off. Again, there but for the grace of God go I.

21360829_10155724413861255_959159822_nAnd now this, a silver arrow shooting out in front of me. Well, not exactly in front of me – I didn’t actually see it. But I was hustled down two flights of stairs at the Oval into an enclosed room along with the other 450 people who were enjoying the networking event, most of us not paying attention to the cricket. Suddenly the sunny terrace, high above the famous pitch where we’d been happily sipping Pimms, was threatened by a security alert. No one knew what was happening. Everyone remained calm, everyone walked nicely, many people looked panic-stricken.  There were mumblings of terrorism. Surely a cricket match isn’t a good target? Or is it? Isn’t anywhere?

When the police evacuated the stadium I walked as quickly as my steadily blistering feet would carry me back to the relative safety of the tube. Rush hour on the Northern Line is quite unpleasant, but two people recognised me as having been at the event and we had a lovely chat, exchanging business cards between the legs of the commuters who weren’t lucky or quick enough to grab seats. I think they recognised me because of my dress, black with a vivid red rose print plonked across the fabric. It struck me that I looked a bit like a walking target, if the archer had taken to the streets with his weapon.

After the stress of that palaver I feel like I should avoid London for a while.  (Until tomorrow, at least!) I should stick to country events; for example, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the sweltering nightmare of the underground, last week’s ceramics fair at Hatfield House was a dream.

21360936_10155724409741255_412055550_nArt in Clay is one of the country’s foremost exhibitions of all things pottery.  Philip’s mum is a potter by trade – I have a lovely collection of vases, fruit bowls and sweetie dishes that she’s kindly gifted to me – so it was great to wander around with someone so knowledgeable and interested in the vast and eclectic collection of products on display. Philip bought a vase – tall, cream, elegant, beautifully curved with a grey squiggly bit at the bottom and a curlicue lip.  I have no idea if that’s a correct ceramicists’ term – I think I may have just made it up.  And if he skims through this blog he’ll probably be thinking I’m describing his ideal woman rather than a vase!

Watching the potters as they demonstrated throwing their clay made me feel (again!) that I want to do something creative.  Fortunately art class has resumed, in a new, Hitchcock-themed venue; still with fairy lights and bananas; still wonderfully calming and focused. Still great fun.  But I want to also do some painting, or even try some of that blobbing about with clay. (Again, probably not the right term…) I haven’t felt inspired to write poetry for a while, although I feel a wave coming on.

21361264_10155724413011255_595205071_nStaying on the pottery theme, I first saw this film in Bermuda in 1991 – and, although the lyrics date back to the year I was born, this song will be forever framed within the confines of white sandy beaches and a turquoise sea. “Time goes slowly by, and time can do so much.”

Time might go slowly by when you’re in love with Sam Wheat, but in business it goes blimmin’ fast.  So I’m offering time management workshops this autumn to set you up for an effectively-managed start to 2018. Call me if you’d like to know more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Giacometti, calm waters and a bicycle made for two

There are few things lovelier on a gloriously warm day than creating a cool breeze by cycling leisurely through the countryside. It’s even better with the beautiful sparkling waters of Rutland on your left. One thing I do think is lovelier is not having to work your thigh muscles and burn your calves – a usual side effect of the cycling culture.  However, I have found the solution!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingPhilip suggested touring around the edge of the lake… on a tandem! It’s great fun. He was awesome, pecs rippling as he worked so hard to masterfully control the huge contraption. He took us riding through shady glens and across grassy spaces full of picnickers and small children – whose parents seemed to think it was cute to allow their offspring to toddle dangerously into the path of oncoming bikes and skateboards. Climbing the steeper hills, Philip even stood up to peddle – very impressive, which I assumed was the reason for the playful display.  Turns out it’s the only way to get up the hill if the person behind is sitting there enjoying the ride instead of actually pedaling…

He told me that now I have mastered staying on the seat, the next step will be to learn how to move my feet.  We’ll see.

We’d intended to spend the day sailing, but a calm water meant the sails wouldn’t be very effective, so we abandoned that idea in favour of the tandem. It made me think of my nana singing Daisy Daisy when I was very young – and now that I’ve typed that it’s going round and round in my head again. (And for some reason, so is the rude version.) In truth, I did contribute significantly to the pedalling and part of my body that shall remain unmentionable in this ladylike blog is still sore – so I guess it’s appropriate to still be singing a cycling song three days after the event.  Annoyingly, I didn’t have my recently-purchased magic cycling knickers with me, which was a huge shame.

Rutland Water is so clear and blue, it’s almost a picture book lake. In contrast, the Thames is a dismal grey colour. Far less pretty but still attractive as it snakes its way through the best city in the world. Have you seen the Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern? I hadn’t really fancied going, but Martyn wanted to go, and I was tempted by the thought of a cake on the members’ balcony overlooking the aforementioned watery artery of my home town.

It was all the more enjoyable because I wasn’t bothered about Giacometti so hadn’t thought about what to expect. I went with an open mind and returned blown away by the diversity of this Swiss artist’s work. Sculptures towering over me at around 10ft were displayed alongside teeny tiny bronze sculptures smaller than my thumbnail.  Really!  It’s all quite fascinating.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut more worthy of a visit is the new exhibition in a large hall at the other end of the concourse: Soul of a Nation: art in the age of black power. This incredible collection of work celebrates black American artists from 1963-83, during the turbulent days of political and social change, following on a huge surfing wave from the impact of the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the things I love about my art gallery memberships is being introduced to artists I’d never heard of before. There were loads here, and their individual artworks, while obviously socially and culturally important – both historically as well as maintaining a global relevance today – are masterpieces in their own right. I’ve never seen such a long queue at the Tate – or certainly not noticed one before – even for the Hockney show.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThis is a popular exhibition, and rightly so. It actually inspired me to do something more creative at my life drawing class this week. But sadly, I forgot. Stuck to a 3B pencil and my trusted purple and turquoise felt tips. Oh well. My own artistic revolution is clearly still to come. Something to look forward to, I guess.

As Freddie said, “I don’t believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman; all I wanna do is…” You can fill in the blank yourself.

If you need help to fill in any business blanks – particularly social media-related, drop me an email – or ask me here:@WeekendWitch.

Counting on social media, brain power and falling in love with Ned Stark

At my son’s insistence, I’ve started watching Game of Thrones.  Yes, I know I’m arriving late at this party but I’m here now, with mead bubbling and swords thrashing (or whatever it is they’re doing) – and with only 62 hours of TV watching to go to catch up with the rest of the global population. So far, it’s quite good, but I have yet to fall in love with the characters or understand the full storyline.  My reluctance to think it’s the most amazing thing ever is perhaps a problem with my brain. So…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI recently underwent three hours of mental testing in London to establish how effectively my brain is working. Interestingly, it’s better than I thought! This will be reassuring for my clients – and my family too, I guess. I popped up to town on Wednesday to go through the results, which showed a remarkable change in what I’d always believed were my ‘best subjects.’  English and humanities had always been my forte at school, college and university, while a distinct hatred of maths meant that I worked in Woolwich market on double maths days during my school years rather than endure the boredom of 90 minutes of numbers. (My mum reads this blog but it’s okay – she knows I bunked off school on maths and PE days – it was fine back then, no one went to prison for kids skipping school in the 80s.)

Anyway, while I scored in the top 5% of the population for language and cognition (luckily – considering my line of work!), I scored in the top 1% for maths and executive function. It made me laugh in disbelief.  I can add VAT in my head, but working out the nett cost of an item takes at least a scrap of paper and my purple pen. I can split a bill and add a tip, estimate arrival times based on maximum speeds (not that anyone needs that anymore; I couldn’t think of a better example), yet I have never considered myself a particularly numerate person. So to be told I’d ‘aced all the tests’ was pretty good for my self-esteem.

Now I’m thinking of ways to use this newly recognised skill. My best friend’s daughter studied pure maths at Cambridge and one of her first tasks was to cut a cake into equal proportions so that everyone thought they had the largest slice. Now that’s a job I could cope with!

I want to end this blog with lyrics about numbers as I’m apparently good at them now. So I’m sitting right here in a John Lewis café racking my brain because I once heard a song about different ways of measuring something – not sure exactly what but I think it might be love.  Whatever it is, it’s going to be more fitting than 2,4,6,8 Motorway, which is the only other ‘numbers’ song that springs to mind.

Fast forward five minutes… A quick query posted on Facebook has given me the answer!! Thanks to Paula, Sharon, Lyn, Mark, Elaine and everyone else who jumped up with suggestions – including my crazy cousin Stephen in Vegas who posted a pic of a chimp singing while wearing a hat – not one of these lovely custom-made ones though!

It’s from Rent, one of the few shows I haven’t seen. “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes: How do you measure – measure a year? In daylights – in sunsets; in midnights – in cups of coffee. In inches – in miles; in laughter – in strife… How about love? How about love? Measure in love! Seasons of love.”

I could add on to that: …In social media posts – in blogs; in LinkedIn connections – in boxes of chocs. In Instagram pics – in tweets; In followers, in cakes that are sweet. (Sing it to the same tune!!)

I could go on. (How long until I fall in love with Ned Stark from Game of Thrones then?) If you’d like to know more about how you can market your business in a year of social media activity, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Lyrics: Jonathan Larson, Universal Music Publishing Group.

Chocolate investment, Business Junction and a stand-up comedian

My friends started a business from scratch a couple of years ago and it’s grown exceptionally well. You have heard me raving about their products – delicious, luxurious, decadent chocolates! I know a lot about chocolate, as you may have gathered – and I can tell you with full conviction, these are amazing.

Kennard’s Artisan Chocolates have won four industry awards in the past year alone: two for their triple Espresso Capsule, one for the Peanut Butter Truffle and another for their Spiced Fruit Cup. They have a range of Vegan and Kosher products, dairy-free, gluten-free, guilt-free… You’re really missing out if you haven’t tried try them. And you can – and with a discount! Because now my lovely friends are giving you the opportunity to become a stakeholder in their business.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThey’re offering three ways for people to invest. I have donated an amount via their crowdfunding page which means I’ll be delivered copious amounts of chocolate brought to me by my smiling postman. (Postwoman actually). You can also invest in the business to become a shareholder – for savvy people seeking a fast-growing enterprise in which to capitalise, this is wonderful opportunity. There’s a charity-focused option too, so take a peek at the full offering and enjoy yourself while your finances grow along with your waistline.

Thanks to the freebies they give me, and my usual cake-coated diet, it looks like my exercise bike will be getting a few more miles on the clock. Luckily for me I have some new special magic bike knickers. They have a rubbery padded bottom, a bit similar to the one I’m heading for at this rate. (No, there’s no photo of my magic knickers.)

I’ve kept up my swimming; that helps to balance the chocolate cravings. My physio agrees it’s good for my balance, and my swimming teacher, David, waivers between telling me I’m doing great (very nice for my self-esteem) and I’m rubbish (makes me laugh, so good for my overall well-being).

20663998_10155649375991255_1251140908236944038_n (1)Another reason to laugh this week was a trip to Arch 1’s comedy club to see my friend David from art class – a different David – performing his stand-up comedy routine.  It was such a funny night. He’s recently jumped on board the stand-up circuit so I expect to be seeing a lot more of him. I’ve seen a lot of him previously, in art class, this is a different seeing him. He’s really good, so if you fancy a fun night out in London you should join me sometime.

I did do a bit of work this week too… It’s not all wine, canapés and chocolate you know. I went to a Business Junction networking lunch. It was all wine and canapés (see – no chocolate!) and meeting new people of course. As well as the usual collection of accountants, IT consultants and designers, there was a very interesting guy who provides business advice based on the law of attraction. He called me afterwards and we may be working together in a few weeks once his business is ready for full marketing. I love all that.  Mark first recommended Esther and Jerry Hicks’ book in 2012 and it’s been sitting on my desk, dipped into and chocolate dripped on it for five years. We can change our worlds. And as we’re pretty much the only ones who can, we’d better get on with it.

Emeli Sandé says, “I’d be smiling if I wasn’t so desperate. I’d be patient if I had the time. I could stop and answer all of your questions, as soon as I find out how I can move from the back of the line.”

If you’re desperate about moving your business forward in line, give me a call. If you can’t find time for social media I can handle it for you – and if you generally want more time I can help you with that too. Check out my time management training and you’ll soon be smiling again. And if you know any good jokes that could give David a run for his money, tell me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being homeless, being creative, being lost for words

The Girl from the North Country is a play at the Old Vic by Conor McPherson, set in 1930’s America during the depression and featuring a Bob Dylan playlist. Shirley Henderson stars, playing a woman with dementia, inhibition-free, dancing inappropriately. I’ve watched this actress in many things from Bridget Jones to Harry Potter, but nothing prepared me for the strength of her powerful voice belting out the classic Like a Rolling Stone. She was a giant on stage. We saw her leaving the theatre while we waited for a cab, a tiny figure in a black hoodie, unobtrusive in the London night-time drizzle, polar opposite of the colourful character she played on the stage. Pure, unadulterated talent. This play thoroughly deserves its five star reviews!

It was a week of talent, beginning with a night at the London Palladium with Art Garfunkel. I’ve loved Simon and Garfunkel since I was a child.  I have their albums, I know their words, I have a book with their guitar chords, ‘borrowed’ from Mark during the last century, that I’ve been learning for, oh, only around 30 years. How on earth am I going to choose lyrics to end this blog?  It should probably be Bridge over troubled waters, as my dad sang that to me – and this week marked 25 years since he left this world – but Dylan is playing through my mind this morning.

The lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone are hard and jolting, confrontational. I’d never listened properly to the verses before but the song’s about a homeless woman who’s fallen from a life of grace.  I wonder who inspired it. I recently gave a homeless girl money for a night’s shelter in a hostel. She started telling me her story but I was late for a meeting and only spent a couple of minutes walking with her. I felt guilty later that day when I spent a small fortune on a new dress, an impulse buy, the cost of which could have given her a fortnight’s stay in the hostel.

I’m often cynical about homelessness and prefer to buy someone a sandwich than give them money in case it’s wasted on drugs or gambling. But who am I to judge? It constantly bemuses me that homelessness can even be an issue still in this day and age, in a relatively prosperous society. Sometimes I’m simply lost for words.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn a lighter note – but somewhat related as it involves a bunch of people losing their home at short notice – this week was our last art class for a while. Ed and his housemates have been evicted from the quirky property that we all called our home on Wednesday evenings, but which was really his home. The spacious room above a pub was filled with fairy lights, vintage furniture, objet d’art and, for some time, a sex swing… It was interesting, it was fun and, for me, it was a very convenient 15-minute drive door-to-door.  If you know of any premises in east London that could house a weekly group of around 30 artists – some aspiring, some professional and most just incredibly awesome, please let me know. Likewise, if you know of premises where they could actually live, that would be useful too.

In the meantime my creative outlet will have to be filled by writing poetry again. I haven’t written anything for a while but I’ll be exhibiting this autumn as part of an art show to celebrate the life of Anne Frank and raise awareness of persecution and discrimination worldwide. So I’d better dust off my poetry hat and get writing.

Good grief – Bridge over troubled water is also about someone becoming homeless! This seems to be a theme for starting the week. I’ll be leaving my nice, warm home shortly for a networking lunch at Chancery Lane – I’ll take a packed lunch with me today to give to the homeless guy who shelters in the subway at Gants Hill station. It’s not much, but it’s going to be on my mind otherwise.

Art Garfunkel said, ‘Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine if you need a friend… I’m sailing right behind.’ That’s more positive anyway. I’m behind – or in front. Or here, at your fingertips: @WeekendWitch.

Passenger Casanova, being a mother-in-law and getting my bum wet

My son Ben’s engagement has been quite a turning point. He’s all grown up! When Oli graduated I realised that no longer having children in education kind of, somehow, put me in a higher age bracket. Now, just two weeks later, I have an engaged son and future daughter-in-law.  I can no longer lie about my age. I will soon be that dreaded being: the mother-in-law!

(Actually, hopefully not dreaded. I have always got on really well with my mothers-in-law and boyfriends’ mums; one ex-boyfriend’s mum still sends me Christmas cards – 30 years later!)

20106372_10155570239851255_3028934993373906103_nAnyway, it was such a lovely day. Ben and Hayley looked radiantly happy, and it was so wonderful to see them surrounded by friends and family. I would like to officially welcome Hayley into our family, but they’ve been together for eight years, so she is already a firm fixture and much loved member of the ‘team.’

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Big shout out to the incredible band who kept 150 people entertained throughout the afternoon and evening: Passenger Casanova. These guys are totally awesome! They were Oli’s friends from school so I’ve known (most of) them since they were 11 years old and pounding the drums on Guitar Hero in my house on Friday afternoons. Now they’re 22 and close friends of both Oli and Ben, and they play the instruments for real. And they play them amazingly well.

20108177_10155570461356255_7332521067663938609_nThis band does not do cover versions – they write their own material then perform it in clubs around London. But for the engagement party they agreed to do a full set of covers – including 70s and 80s dance music and classics such as Everybody wants to rule the world. They learned the music and lyrics, rehearsed hard and were absolutely perfect. The sun shone and people danced and they helped to create a wonderful atmosphere for a such a happy occasion.  Thank you Mandeep, Saif, Tom, Jack and Ryan!

150 people in my house was always likely to be somewhat stressful, yet everything went smoothly, all things considered.  But to counteract any potential stress, Philip took me to a fabulous hotel the next day for a night of luxury. Cream tea, meandering through beautiful gardens, scrumptious dinner and a swim and sauna – very relaxing.  Then… followed by a day of sailing at Rutland Water. I can tell you that in the past, this has not been relaxing. It’s been the opposite of relaxing.

I don’t sail. Correction, I didn’t sail. I liked sales. I still like sales; now I also like sails.  Captain Philip thoughtfully booked a lesson to teach me the basics – the original idea being more about me being able to sail close to the wind as he hardened up…

20197122_10155580021966255_199247935_nThe day turned out to be such fun for both of us.  I can now ease the sails windward and trim the sails leeward. I can adjust the jib to come about and release the spinnaker from its waterproof sheath.  I can get into the boat without getting my bum wet and, most importantly, I can set the sails to ‘picnic position’ – the reason being self-explanatory. Ben-the-fantastic-tutor from Rutland Sailing Club explained that the secure bag is a very useful vessel for storing ice and a nice bottle of prosecco… (I highly recommend Ben if you fancy learning to sail too.)

Although I own a very tight-fitting (to the point of strangulation) wetsuit, I don’t have matching shoes. A kind lady in the changing room lent me hers. I’d never met her before and may never see her again, yet she took off her waterproof boots and passed them over to me with a smile. How many people would so readily hand over their own clothing to a complete stranger? Not even sure I would. She was really lovely!

Roland Orzabal and friends put these words in Passenger Casanova’s mouths on Sunday and I agree with them.  “Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to rule the world.”

Rule it, sail it, do business via social media with it.  The world’s a smaller place than it used to be, If you’d like help to target new clients on the other side, give me a call and we can chat about a meaningful social media strategy. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

(PS – (I’m laughing as I read that back! All real sailing terms!! )

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Princess dresses, Bat out of Hell and feline mental health issues

I’ve skipped a couple of weeks of blog writing. Only for me – my clients’ blogs are still all on time, of course.  I tell myself no one will notice if I miss a week, which is the opposite of my professional advice to everyone else! And naturally people do notice, and I get emails asking if I’m alright, which is really nice, and very kind.  I’m absolutely fine, thank you; busy nursing the new kitten I mentioned last time… who, it turns out, suffers from mental health issues!

Charlie’s incredibly sweet, but self-harming. It’s very sad. He gets so distressed when he’s alone that he pulls out his fur in clumps and make the skin sore and blistered. The vet’s given antiseptic wash, antibiotic cream and a very expensive pheromone diffuser to calm him down. It certainly didn’t make me feel calm when I got the bill. C’est la vie!

The heatwave that’s engulfed us over the past couple of weeks has made me feel like I’m on holiday. I can’t deny that I get less done when the sun’s scorching, and I’ve had some super days out when I should have been working.

Gill and I had a wonderful day at Kensington Palace to celebrate her birthday. Princess Diana’s dress collection currently on exhibition there is a nostalgic trip through the 80s – the time when I worked in fashion buying.  I remember well the design and creative teams scurrying around each time Diana appeared with a new look. I’d be on the phone to milliners, jewellery suppliers and belt manufacturers before she’d stepped out of the limousine. I never met Diana, although I met Prince William after her death; I think I’d have liked her though. She shared a birthday with Gill, so undoubtedly they would have shared some personality characteristics. I’d have happily shared her dresses.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe elegance was contrasted in polar fashion after dinner when we sang along at Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell: the Meatloaf show at the London Coliseum. This is one of my top two albums of all time, so I knew I was going to enjoy the music – but the whole show was stunning! Fabulous sets, brilliant choreography and amazing, well, everything. I think Diana would have enjoyed it too!

Other fun in the sun included the Hadley Wood Jazz Festival (my boyfriend makes a superb picnic; it’s worth dating him just for that).  Also Gay Pride (we missed the carnival because of the vet’s visit but what we caught was entertaining) and a number of lunches/dinners/Pimms in the sunshine with not enough sun cream and a little too much of my home-made insect repellent.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut the highlight of the summer so far was, without a doubt, my son Oli’s graduation from Cambridge with a BSc and MSc in something chemistry-related. From the ancient ceremony in Senate House, conducted completely in Latin, to the BBQ on the college lawn, with more Pimms, champagne and a good deal of delicious food – the day was perfect.  I couldn’t have been prouder and, if you follow me on Facebook you may have seen a selection of photos drizzled throughout the day.

He needs to find a job now, so if anyone reading this needs a molecular quantum mechanic – or just a Cambridge graduate who is incredibly smart and funny, please get in touch.

As the main man says; “Oh, baby you’re the only thing in this whole world that’s pure and good and right. And wherever you are and wherever you go, there’s always gonna be some light.”

If you’d like to lighten up your social media, spice it up or crank it up – give me a call, email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being catty, signing contracts and something bizarre

If you’ve been feeling hot this week, spare a thought for me.  I adopted an eight month old kitten at the weekend and had to sign a contract with the cat sanctuary that I won’t have windows or doors open for four weeks.  Yes… Four weeks!!

Charlie needs time to settle in properly before being introduced to my garden, with its nest of pretty (but spiteful) robins and an influx of neighbourhood cats. I think they remember that my old cat flap was broken and allowed them in to sneakily grab food that wasn’t theirs.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe cat sanctuary in Waltham Abbey was amazing, but heartbreaking. I would have taken more cats but my circumstances don’t allow it right now. An allergic boyfriend and future daughter-in-law means that I’m limited to hypo-allergenic breeds, so it was lucky that Charlie popped up.

It was interesting that I had to sign a contract. It had all sorts of stipulations, some enforceable, others less so. It reminded me that the lawyer who kindly drew up new contracts for me a couple of months ago is probably getting frustrated that I haven’t implemented them yet.

I will do.  Up until now I have provided social media services following discussions with the clients and ongoing reviews. I have never tied anyone in to a minimum service period, although I always explain that you need to allow at least a year to show return on investment. Some people just want a six-month push to get them up and running, and that’s fine.

I saw various contracts of historical importance last week at the Churchill War Rooms. It’s a fantastic museum that I’d never heard of until last year; the underground bunker where the cabinet operated during the war. Hundreds of people lived and worked there, just metres below the city, in a capsule world that no-one else knew existed. Decisions were made, strategies were implemented and a small cat wandered the halls waiting for Churchill to tickle his tummy.

One exceptional airman that fought in the war that Churchill led is Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE.  I’ve written about this delightful man before (flying-in-a-spitfire-the-finest-banquet-in-london-and-ladies-in-not-many-clothes/) and was so pleased to see him again last week at a reception held at the Ministry of Defence. We were launching the 2018 Soldiering On Awards to recognise outstanding and inspirational members of the military family. Air Commodore Clarke has won one, as have many incredible people – and animals! (No cats yet, though.)

Aside from politics and military leadership, Churchill was a wonderful artist and writer.  One of his best quotes (in my opinion) is: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Charles Clarke was going through hell when he was shot down and captured by the enemy. He was one of the brave men portrayed in The Great Escape who battled his way to freedom. Another Churchill quote that’s appropriate for then and now is, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

It sure is. If you know of anyone who deserves recognition, please consider nominating them for one of these prestigious awards.  Nominations open shortly – you can check out the categories here.

Determined to find a military-themed song more cheerful than Billy don’t be a hero (which Sharon and I sang repeatedly throughout our childhood), I googled and this came up in Spinditty’s songs about soldiers and veterans: 8th of November by Big and Rich.  It’s the true story of Niles Harris, a 19-year-old boy from Deadwood, South Dakota, who hugged his mother goodbye as he left home for the army to fight in the Vietnam War. Just a few months later, on November 8, 1965, he encountered an epic battle in which 48 of his fellow soldiers died. Niles was injured, but fortunately survived.

The reason this touched me is that 8th November is my birthday! Touching. bizarre and more than a teeny bit creepy. Do you have a song about the day you were born? Even if you’re not a fan of country music, the video is worth watching. The lyrics aren’t overly cheerful, so I’ll simply quote… “Saw the eagle fly through a clear blue sky; 1965, the eighth of November.”

Creeped me out, but on the plus side there’s no excuse for you not wishing me happy birthday this year, haha! You can do that here: @WeekendWitch.

Networking fun, bargain books and grabbing a man where I shouldn’t (again!)

Having skipped most of my networking invitations over the past few months due to work commitments, holidays and funerals (my 101-year-old auntie!), I’m making up for lost time.

As you’ll know if you run a business, online social networking is brilliant for 101 reasons, but social media should be part of your wider marketing strategy. It’s also important to get out there in the real world and connect with people who you might like to do business with.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSo, in the past fortnight I’ve been to four events and met some fabulous people. Of course, Networking’s not just about making new contacts. It’s about building relationships with people you already know, learning more about each other so you can recommend potential clients and remembering names and faces so they spring to mind when someone asks if you know a good accountant, designer, event planner, lawyer – or social media management company!!

Wednesday night’s barbecue overlooking the Olympic Park, high on a hotel terrace with sizzling meats, delicious salad and an abundance of bite-sized cakes, is one of my favourite business events of the year. Run by the Newham Chamber of Commerce, which is far more dynamic than it sounds, it’s more of a party than a business event. I knew loads of people, met some more that I’m sure I’ll see again and was, as ever, greedy with the chocolate brownies.

This was the scene of (one of) my most embarrassing network fails. That night five years ago when my pink suede stiletto slipped cleanly through the gap in the decking, causing me to reach out as I tumbled forward…. grabbing the closest thing to hand in order to break my fall. I grabbed hard. And the closest thing was a man.  Or rather, part of a man. A rather red-faced man!! You can imagine what I grabbed…!!

This story was recounted several times during the evening, including by people who had actually witnessed it, proving that you definitely can attend a networking event and be memorable without even trying!!

Another lovely event was Andrew Segal’s lunch in Richmond. As the sun beamed down on the sparkling river outside, we listened to Royal artist-in-residence Jeremy Houghton  talk about his incredible artworks for clients including the Queen, Aston Martin and Wimbledon. I admire such talent, especially when it goes hand in hand with a warm and engaging personality. Andrew’s latest book, Beads of Blood, is available on Amazon – you can pick up your bargain copy this week for only 99p!

The thing with a lunch or formal dinner is that you get to know the people around you quite well, but must make an effort to chat to others sitting further away, either before you sit down or after coffee. At the Hofburg Palace in Vienna last week, I learned that 18th century dinner guests were only allowed to speak to the people sitting directly on either side of them. No shouting across the table, talking over someone else or hand waving in front of your neighbour’s face. Not that people generally do that at the lovely dinners I’m invited to. But imagine if you were stuck next to two incredibly boring people and simply not allowed to talk to anyone else! A good case for musical chairs.

…Which leads me nicely into Saturday night’s excellent Sing Song Club at my local pub – the Chequers. The event was quickly thrown together as a fundraiser for the tragic Grenfell Tower victims, so it was, in a way, sadly oxymoronic that we had such fun. The band played with karaoke-style wording displayed on a giant screen, but with the clever addition of chords, so musicians in the audience could join in while the rest of us shook home-made percussion instruments and much-loved tambourines. We sang, danced and drank large glasses of Pimms.

The song that immediately sprang to mind for today’s blog was Don’t look back in anger, as we all sang along to that quite rowdily on Saturday, with Sue commandeering the mic and walloping out a tune. But actually, the lyrics aren’t at all appropriate for the severity and nature of the tragedy, so – instead – I’m not quoting anything. I’m just sending love, sympathy and hope to the victims and their families. So much has already been said, there’s nothing new to say. Let’s simply raise a glass, Pimms or otherwise, to a stronger, safer, healthier future for this shocking world, and hope and pray for the positivity needed to get England out of these dark times and back on track.