Renee

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.

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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.

LinkedIn at the Tate, an Olympic torch-bearer and Prosecco in a menswear shop

So the Olympics have kicked off!  As you know I’m not a sporty person, although over the past few months I’ve sailed (kind of), swum (kind of), wobbled along on a bike and strolled through forests and parkland – anywhere that promises the adrenaline thrill of a cream cake and a hot chocolate at the end of the journey. I’m actually writing this blog in the sunshine outside Konditor and Cook at Spitalfields, enjoying an apricot and honey cheesecake crumble while I wait for a networking event to start at 6pm.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOne thing that has drawn me to paying attention to this year’s Olympics was the fact that my friend and business associate Dieneke was a torch-bearer!  I logged on to Facebook one morning, stunned to see her smiling face holding the torch aloft as she ran through the streets of Rio. She’s an inspirational woman for various reasons and quite deserving of the honour.

We worked together a couple of years ago on a special project.  Dieneke ran a competition for the 1000 or so British designers that she supports through her website, Hidden Art.  Mark and I had the privilege of delivering 121 workshops to the three winners – his on business strategy and mine on social media marketing. The whole thing was great fun. The formula was similar to the workshops I’ve been providing this month to growth businesses in the city, although these focused more on professional profiles on LinkedIn than general social media.

One of my favourite 121 sessions this week was with a lady called Melissa that I worked with in the Tate Modern members’ room.  It’s a brilliant location to meet; the view’s amazing and the cakes are delicious.  After our session on social media marketing we called in to the gallery to view the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective.  It’s wonderful – if you get a chance you should go.  Her landscape paintings have an ethereal quality, and the flowers for which she’s famous are highly stylised and bold, yet also beautiful, swirly and delicate.

And my favourite non-work activity this week was 30 minutes of Jesus Christ Superstar at the gorgeous Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. The heavens opened that day, but Philip had the good sense to take sailing gear, so we dressed hysterically in muddy waterproofs and watched the cast battle against the elements to entertain as best they could. Consummate professionals, they sang and danced with their clothes clinging to them like a wet t shirt competition in the 80s, rain pouring down their faces. The show was called off as it became a danger for them to perform, so hopefully we’ll be luckier with the weather when we return next week.

Jesus has been topical this week, as I’ve prepared my poetry for the upcoming ‘100 Madonna’ exhibition, which will be held from 5 – 18 September at the Crypt Gallery in Euston.  More info to follow in due course but, if you like art exhibitions, please diarise this one – it’s going to be fab!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSince writing all that, I’ve been to the networking evening – it was brilliant.  Michelle Peters, a business instructor for lawyers and other professionals, arranged it with Oscar Bencivenga, owner of a gorgeous Italian menswear store in Spitalfields. (I love the photo of the Bencivenga family almost as much as the fabulous clothes.) I’ll be returning with the boys – although I’m guessing there won’t be Prosecco and canapés during the working day.  Could be wrong though; there’s a DJ on Friday nights during late opening hours, as the area’s buzzing and customers call in after work.

Not sure if that DJ plays this, but I still do… “He’s searching, she’s showing; see him held in a deep deep spell, he knows she’s glowing. I can find within my mind a way to go… I can look deep into your light and shout ‘Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me.”  If you’re looking within your mind for a way to go with your business – and that way is forward, let’s chat about how social media can help you get there. You can hold on to clients whilst you meet new ones!  Call me to find out more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Political hair, smashing windows and LinkedIn for on-line dating

I was wondering why all the key female players in world politics have the same haircut?  I posed the question on Facebook, yet no one seems to know.  This band of older women with their blondish bobs are reminiscent of Joanna Lumley’s 70s ‘Purdey’ cut mixed with a bit of Princess Diana then shaken up with the Midwich Cuckoos – also known as Village of the Damned…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingEnough said.  At least the news seems to have veered away from how they look and focus more on what they’re doing, or planning to do.

There’s also more stuff in the news about the dangers of online dating.  Of course there’s a risk to meeting a stranger that you’ve only spoken to by email – but it’s no more than meeting someone in a bar.  I met my boyfriend on a dating site and, after nine months, he still seems relatively normal. Loves chocolate, owns dogs (good judges of character), dislikes cats (well it would be weird if he had no faults), has loads of friends, a lovely home and a very nice mum.

In my youth I was far more slapdash when it came to dating.  Gill and I did some things we wouldn’t dream of telling you about now, including getting into some pretty close scrapes.  We were actually very stupid teenagers for two fairly clever girls.  One time, we met two boys at the Ilford Palais and they offered to take us to the White Bear pub where one of them lived for a late night hot chocolate.  We drove through country lanes with a noticeable absence of properties until we came to said pub, forlorn and deserted in its moonlit setting of fields, grass and more fields.

By this stage both our hearts were beating super-fast and we felt extremely wary – somewhat more so when the supposed inhabitant told us he’d forgotten his keys and would have to break in… Cutting to the core and removing the sheer panic from this cautionary tale, he climbed through a broken window – and, it transpired – he did, in fact, live there. We had the hot chocolate then the boys drove us home, perfectly safely and happily. But it was a lesson learnt.  (If Philip is reading about this smashed window incident, he will be smiling at how history repeats itself.)

Today’s methods for meeting people do, at least, give you the opportunity to carry out a fair degree of research before coming face-to-face in a public place.  Social media allows you to see who they’re connected to, whether their friends look like axe murderers, if they have family who appear to like them.  You can check out where someone works, what they do, what they enjoy, where they go – our lives have become open books.

When I started dating again my friends thought it was weird to meet up with someone for lunch or cakes – but it’s really not that different to networking.  I’ve been contacted on LinkedIn for business enquiries that have led to coffee and an iced bun.  (When I proof read this I saw I’d initially typed ‘iced bum’ – that would put a completely different perspective on business meetings!!!)

I’ve been helping a few city-based businesses get to grips with LinkedIn this week.  It’s such a fabulous forum for researching prospective clients and setting the groundwork for future business dealings.  It may share similarities with on-line dating sites, but surely networking events are just like a party full of new friends all ready to chat. What’s the difference?

Nick Lowe said, “I love the sound of breaking glass, deep into the night. I love the sound of its condition, flying all around.”  I don’t advocate breaking anything, apart from ice. If you’d like help to ice-break when you network on- or off-line, give me call. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Ethical business, death by syllable and sailing too close to the wind

I am now a sailor. Having spent five hours aboard a sailing boat I am familiar with all the nautical terms that relate to a boat capsizing. Fortunately we didn’t, but there were a couple of close shaves. Philip forgot to pull the blah-de-blah from the blib-de-blob that resulted in the boat tilting at an 89 degree angle, but he righted it in the fraction of a millisecond between going over or retaining an upright, almost dry position tossing about on the waves.

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

Not the best photo, but all that could be done in the 5 seconds it seemed safe enough to get the phone out the dry-bag.

Getting into my new wetsuit was the first challenge. Then I couldn’t even get into the boat. “Jump in!” he yelled, which of course I wasn’t able to. Suddenly two hefty arms around my waist lifted me up and over, literally chucking me headfirst into the boat! Bum in the air, face on deck, very elegant.

Disentangling myself from the numerous ropes that need constant pulling and tugging, tacking and securing, untangling, knotting, twisting, moving… (I don’t actually know what I’m talking about) I could hear him mumbling sarcastically about the grace of a gazelle….

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe idioms I have been familiar with my whole life – and have used in business practice – now have a whole new meaning.  Sailing close to the wind, taking the helm, man overboard… Wasn’t there a to-do a few years ago about the term Man Overboard…? During my Plain English Business Writing sessions I’ve had corporate clients who have set internal guidelines for using gender-neutral terms, and we’ve laughed about the extremes some people go to to avoid using the word ‘man.’

They can no longer say ‘manning the phones’ or ‘manpower,’ for example. And it occurred to me yesterday that if I’d taken a solid feminist stance and insisted on using ‘woman overboard,‘ that extra syllable could have killed me. Well, I doubt I’d have actually been killed or damaged on the beautiful lake at Rutland Water, but you know what I mean. Syllables save lives!  Now there’s a campaign for the new government if ever I heard of one!

I haven’t done any Plain English sessions lately but this week I began a series of one-to-one training dates on various aspects of social media. Coincidentally, three of the companies I’ve worked with have been ethical businesses. One, Change Please, provides barista training to homeless people. It involves carts of delicious, high quality, perfectly roasted coffee being sold in trendy locations around the city, from Borough to Canary Wharf, with proceeds going to the charity and homeless people being given the skills and resources to earn a living.

I gave up coffee seven years ago, but the smell of a good mugful and the temptation of creamy froth sparkling up at me still makes me yearn for a bar of galaxy to dip in and indulge… But I don’t submit! I’ll stick to green teas and mint infusions for the time being. Or a nice glass of cool wine on a warm summer evening.

We had a bottle of wine at the Canary Wharf concert on Tuesday, kicking off the picnic season with the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing sedately. I think this week will be more of a singing, dancing night – feel free to join us – we’re there most Tuesday evenings from 6pm.

Mark and I loved this in the 80s and we both still play the High Land Hard Rain album all these years later. “Get me back on board, pull me up with grace. Get me back on board; let me be embraced.” If you’ve gone overboard, or you feel you’re bobbing along and your business could do with a marketing push, give me a call.  Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Raising money, pregnant at 50 and LinkedIn pages for kings and dogs

Square Mile Salute is a charity set up by my friend and colleague Anne, with the aim of delivering a night of fun and laughter that celebrates all that’s great in the city while raising money for some worthwhile causes that support our servicemen and servicewomen. The sumptuous banquet she organised jointly with CSARN at the Honourable Artillery Company was fantastic with amazing food, gorgeous flowers and incredibly interesting people.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAt the beautifully dressed and perfectly laid table, Ben looked to his left to greet his dinner partner, only to be faced with… a dog!  (No, I’m not being bitchy about anyone.) We had the pleasure of Allen Parton’s company along with his assistance dog EJ (Ben’s new friend) and another lovely creature who is deemed to be the cleverest dog in the military family! As well as the standard jobs these dogs do, such as loading the washing machine, using a cashpoint and getting their owners into the recovery position, this canine lady can sense Cancer and pregnancy, and makes a fuss of the relevant person. Fortunately she didn’t fuss around me.  The woman who went out of Masterchef last week was saying she has one daughter of 35 and another of 2 – born when she was 50…. Just imagine that!!!

Anyway, the evening was a roaring success, raising over £50,000 for four very worthy charities, including Soldiering On Awards.  Comedian Tom Binns was exceptionally funny, providing the entertainment in character and keeping the hall giggling throughout.  The champagne helped with that too…

I’ve walked past the Honourable Artillery many times, and wondered what was going on as I peered through the wrought iron gates.  Soldiers in uniform playing cricket in the heart of the city, a fairground (!!) and some very impressive architecture.  Now I know.  This magnificent Georgian house set in a five-acre garden houses a charity set up by Henry VIII to support the Regiment which bears its name. It’s a lovely estate and it was certainly one amazing night!

The venue can be hired for private functions and I’m thinking about running a social media workshop there.  I’ll need to be organised though, I’m guessing that everything there runs to military precision.  I ran a social media training session recently for businesses based around Liverpool Street and Shoreditch. Although it didn’t start until 9 I like to leave home very early to get parked at the station and beat the crush of morning commuters. So I arrived an hour early and, it turned out, without any make-up, without my hairbrush and without reading glasses (an item that is becoming more of a prerequisite as each year passes).

I’m running a series of 121 sessions this week – hopefully a bit more pulled together!  I’ll be all over London, from Spitalfields to Westfield to a barn on a river by the A10.  It’ll be fun.  I love working closely with businesses to help them generate more activity on social media.  I’d have quite liked to have worked with Henry VIII to help promote his artillery too, although probably best to have steered clear on that one. (I can fire in a fairly straight line as it happens.)  He’d have had an interesting LinkedIn page, that’s for sure. As would EJ the dog…

Wise man Tom Bailey said, “Diamond rings, and all those things – they never sparkle like your smile. And as for fame, it’s just a name that only satisfies you for a while.”  Sparkle online – and keep smiling – ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to Roy Strutt for the lovely photos.)

Tea and knickers, Brexit and a sign of the times

It’s a quick blog today as I spent far too long watching politics and wandering around country houses this weekend and not enough time working. But that’s ok, right?

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe undressing exhibition at the V&A was interesting, but lacked some of the pieces Debra and I would have liked to have seen. Not that we’re serial underwear-watchers, but – as she pointed out, Madonna’s pointy bra would have made a good point.  A lot of the exhibits were from previous centuries and it’s hard to know whether to marvel at the fact women could actually wear them, or feel sorry for pain they must surely have suffered. Probably both, actually.  They were certainly keener to present themselves as slaves to fashion than I would be.

Some of the stuff was very lovely, with examples of bras from the 50s to the 90s still elegant, sexy and beautiful, even by today’s standards.

As it happens, I preferred the Botticelli exhibition.  Reimagined images of his most famous artworks in various media are displayed in a gallery alongside the 15th century master’s original works.  I love love loved a Dolce and Gabbana dress which was slated by the Independent.  (No photos allowed, but there a pic of it on the V&A website’s home page.) It Looks a bit similar to my Jean Paul Gaultier dress and spurred me on towards a brief diet so that it fits me again….

The diet ended an hour later when we stopped off in Covent Garden for a traditional English cream tea.  Oh well, art often depicts curvier women so an extra few pounds can’t hurt.

(As I’m writing this, I have a vague recollection of seeing Madonna’s bra once – possibly at the Rock Café in London a couple of years ago. Did I – or has time made me imagine weird underwear things??)

If you’re surprised I haven’t discussed Brexit on social media, it’s because I think there’s been enough posted to drive all five living generations crazy.  Never before have I seen such divisive comments on Facebook – friends turning against friends, people insulting those who disagree with them, heated arguments, slagging offs…  Whether you voted in, voted out or voted out and then regretted it, all we can hope for now is a common sense, compassionate outcome with a government that genuinely wants the best for all of us – and a community that works to create a better world for our children and their children.  Am I optimistic? Not particularly.  It’s uncharacteristic for me but there you have it; based on what I’ve seen and read since Thursday I think it may be a tough ride ahead for England.  But we’ll see….

As the Belle Stars said, back in the days when I voted for the trendiest party rather than paying attention to the issues, “You say you love me but want success, I say you’re lying, nothing has changed. This is the sign of the times, piece of more to come… This is the sign of the times, time to be alone.”  Hmmmm – read into that what you will.  But no one needs to be alone. England, Britain, Europe, Earth – wherever I am, I’ll still be here: @WeekendWitch.

PS – my best friend turns 50 this week!  Happy birthday Gill, have a wonderful day, week, year and forever! Thank you for being my friend XXX

A sixties icon, fathers and dancing goddesses

Cat Stevens’ voice hasn’t changed.  His sultry tones are still emotionally raw and the audience cheered when everyone realised Tuesday’s concert was simply, as promised, a fundraiser for Syrian children and not an opportunity to talk about Islam.

13466198_10154267066881255_1388867276007582269_nHe’s an incredibly engaging performer, down to earth and natural; his easy-going personality shone through his smiles. Converting to Islam in 1979 meant he stopped recording, but his return a few years ago bridged the gap over a whole generation, albeit without some of his best work. (His wife won’t let him play any of the stuff he wrote for ex-girlfriend Patti D’Arbanville, apparently.)  Now known as Yusuf, this concert was billed under both names, but the playlist was mainly pre-musical-break – as the audience had hoped.

When we got the tickets I wasn’t sure how many songs I’d know – Father and Son has long since been one of my favourites, but I tended to mix him up a bit with Bob Dylan.  So it was a nice surprise that I knew most of them and was able to join in, in my lovely, tone-deaf harmony that sounds pleasant to me and my cat, but sends everyone else running for cover.

The week took me back to London the following day for a members’ viewing of the new Tate Modern extension.  Well, the building has an abundance of wonderful space and I’m an art lover, so of course I enjoyed the evening… The layout is interesting, the work was mostly creative and the hot chocolate in the members’ café was smooth and creamy.

13493019_10154279481886255_1999541311_nThe subtext here is that Martyn and I were more impressed with the building than a lot of the artworks. Some were hugely creative and impressive but others less so – however, kudos to the artists for originality in marketing their art so well that the largest gallery of modern art in London accepted it for display.  Neither Martyn nor I haven’t achieved that…

I’m writing this on Fathers’ Day.  Although this celebratory day is rumoured to have begun in America at the turn of the 20th century, it only became official in America in 1972. Presumably the UK copied, and my guess is that the greetings card industry pounced on an opportunity.

By contrast, Mothers’ Day dates back to ancient annual spring festivals the Greeks and Romans both dedicated to maternal goddesses.  A Christian festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent honours the Virgin Mary, and in sixteenth century England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers and named Mothering Sunday.  Not being Christian, Greek or Roman, I still – obviously – enjoy the attention on Mothers’ Day, without the religious connotations or dancing around naked to goddess chanting. (Although I think some of my friends might indulge…….!!)

13237635_10154219615981255_5084423832331039728_nAnyway, I’m spending this Fathers’ Day morning ploughing through my son’s washing, as he returned from university last night with a year’s worth of dirty clothes. He also came home with a huge smile and a 2:1 degree from Cambridge – so this a very proud mummy signing off and wishing all the dads, step-dads, grandads, foster dads, common-law dads, like-a-father dads, uncles and fathers-in-law a happy day and a wonderful year ahead.  I’ll be thinking about my daddy in heaven, as I do most days.

I did post these lyrics on Facebook recently, but couldn’t miss them off today. ‘Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got – you will still be here tomorrow, though your dreams may not.’

Your dreams will… Make them your reality.  Ask me how: @WeekendWitch.