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.

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.

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.

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.

Kinky footwear, dead poets and flickering candles in Spitalfields

Dennis Severs’ House at 18 Folgate Street is an absolute treasure. Hidden in the depths of Spitalfields beyond the trendy market and restaurants, it’s a time capsule, a true step back through the centuries. The house was occupied from 1724 by Huguenot silk weavers and, wandering the wooden-beamed rooms in candlelight, there’s an eerie sense of them having just stepped out for a moment, leaving the minutia of their lives exposed.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingEach room painstakingly recreates a moment in time, capturing the feel of life in London from the Huguenots’ breakfast table to the dawn of the 20th century – and the house is hauntingly atmospheric. We wandered around in silence, as is the rule (Sshhhh), careful of the candles flickering as we gingerly stepped around the beautiful furnishings and objects that were once somebody’s belongings. Fittingly, I wore a silk skirt – not Huguenot-weaved: Phase Eight – but the sentiment was there. Its floaty edges weren’t ideal for the narrow wooden staircase that reach four storeys into a bygone world, making me wonder how the women managed in their glorious brocade dresses. Definitely worth a visit if you have an hour to spare in London!

I’ve had a very cultural couple of weeks, what with our trip to Burghley House, another lived-in stately home, grand and very luxurious with whippets racing and alpacas sort-of-smiling – and a day out with Sharon and the twins to Westminster Abbey.  I loved that!! Not sure it was two 13-year-old boys’ idea of fun, but the landmark is so steeped in history you can almost hear the monks shuffling along the cloisters.  As you may already know, I do love an ancient gravestone and the Abbey didn’t disappoint.  With some of the most celebrated brains (now bones) in English history, from Isaac Newton to Charles Dickens, and Kings and Queens lying in peace close to artists, poets (including some of my favourites) and, errr, a plumber…. I could have stayed all day but the café soon tempted us away with creamy fish pies!

A few days later the twins came along to Oli’s 21st birthday party.  How blessed we are to have had five generations together in one kitchen.  Well. Four and a half really, but who’s counting. (Only the person in charge of the tequila jelly-shots!)

My week closed with another trip to London – Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre.  Such a fantastic show – as well as being flamboyant with brilliant choreography, costumes and sets, the story is true, making it all the more special.  This tale of a business owner with a flagging firm and fewer customers each year is heart-warming and funny.  He befriends drag queen Lola and, together, they create a range of sought-after, thigh high, glittery fashion boots for cross-dressing men – and business booms!

The musical score by Cyndi Lauper is fab – particularly if you were her fan back in the 80s. (I was.) As she would say, “Sometimes you picture me – I’m walking too far ahead. You’re calling to me; I can’t hear what you’ve said. Then you say, ‘go slow,’ I fall behind. The second hand unwinds.”

If you call me I promise I’ll hear (possibly not if you whisper). To be sure, get in touch here or here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.

Sandwiches, dinner and a little ukulele

When I was at school, a sandwich shop opened by the roundabout that offered a whole cabinet full of fillings.  It was quite innovative for the eighties.  Every day I’d pick up my banana and corned beef sandwich to eat with my friends on the park bench next to the school – from where we’d forget to go back for afternoon lessons.  This is on the days I went to school of course, those being art and social science days, as opposed to maths and PE which I generally skipped.  Don’t remember an awful lot about what we learned (except cumulus and cumulo nimbus clouds, and Latin verb formations) – but I remember the weird sandwiches….  What does that mean?

Working at Principles, my days were so busy buying jewellery and lingerie that there was barely time to eat lunch.  Someone would do a sandwich run and we’d sit at our desks shovelling in the food.  I think the café there was called Harry Masons – not exactly sure now but it was definitely Harry Something.  I had a chicken and stuffing sandwich every day, unless being wined and dined by suppliers. In Venice the sandwiches were memorable because they looked like their fillings had been ice-cream-scooped into the bread.

I’m mentioning this because I don’t eat sandwiches now.  The bread no longer likes me and I’m quite strict.  Giving a presentation on social media recently on the 23rd floor of the Shard, the lunch provided was a superb mix of…. Sandwiches.  Various breads, buns and wraps adorned the table, but I settled for a plate of black grapes and a mint tea.  It wasn’t my best business lunch.   So in years to come I’ll remember little of the presentation and who was there, but my strangely selective memory will recall the mix of sandwiches laid out before me.  (I’m writing this late at night again… can you tell?)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingHad dinner in a lovely little Moroccan restaurant recently with my friend Mark who runs a business hub in Southend.  I’ve run social media training courses for him in the past, when he was based closer to London.  Then he took me to a tiny bar, the size of someone’s front room, where the D’Ukes entertained us with their ukuleles!!  European headliners at the ukulele festival, they were actually fantastic!  Playing an eclectic set that encompassed Amy Winehouse, the Pretenders, Neil Diamond and – erm, Hava Nagila, we clapped and joined in the choruses of everything from the 60s to Stereophonics.

Mark mentioned that the group were all probably someone’s grandads, and we laughed about that because it seemed funny that grandpas would be doing a gig.  I say this while listening to Fleetwood mac on the iPad and having spent last night chatting about the Rolling Stones exhibition.

Work this week is a funny mix of meetings and blogging, with plenty of time for lunch.  So if you’re in Zone 1 and fancy a sandwich (without bread!) and a chat about social media, give me a shout.  (When I read back to edit this, I noticed I’d written ‘give me a shot’ – that also would be nice – Baileys, preferably!)

Let’s try this…  Hava neranenah, hava neranenah, hava neranenah ve-nismeḥa!  (Let’s sing, let’s sing, let’s sing and be happy!)  And why not? I’m off now to find my pink ukelele – I think it’s in the attic…. time to start learning to play? Enjoy your lunch – and your week!! @WeekendWitch.

Exhibitionism, ageless misbehaviour and my first studio TV appearance

What an amazing afternoon I spent with Martyn the Artist at the brilliantly presented Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones! Without doubt the best exhibition I’ve seen since Bowie at the V&A.  Also the most expensive – possibly Mick Jagger’s economics background coming into play.  The Saatchi gallery is usually free, so I assume it’s the band making the money? Anyway, so worth it…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt turns out that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, childhood friends who’d lost touch, bumped into each other at Dartford train station, each carrying LPs of blues bands.  What a serendipitous day in music history that turned out to be.  Coincidence? Fate?  Of course it would be all so different today with school friends keeping in touch on social media.  Facebook highlights everyone’s musical tastes, fashion disasters and likes/dislikes, so it’s easy to find things in common with potential multi-million-pound-rockstar-partners.

Exhibitionism showcases not only the band’s talent, but their lifestyle over the past five and a half decades. Their logo pretty much sums it up: the sticking out tongue – an image representing ageless misbehaviour, childish anarchy and sexual decadence of a group of slowly aging men.  Martyn told me an interesting story about this branding; the intellectual property rights for the tongue still belong to the designer. He retained ownership apparently, and earns a nice little pot from the famous psychedelic lips.  A good day’s work, eh?

Aside from the music itself – soundbites, sound installations and handwritten, scribbled lyrics – the Saatchi Gallery displays their fantastically flamboyant fashions, set design, album cover artwork and videos in an encompassing microcosm of British pop. And it’s rude.  Videos of naked girls falling about drunkenly on tour buses. Like the band, these women are probably also grandparents now; it made us laugh.

In the eighties, Gill’s company were doing the PR for the Stones’ film ‘Let’s spend the night together.’  She brought home a huge bagful of badges with those words, and we traipsed around pubs and clubs throughout London distributing them to boys we fancied!  (Don’t do that now…)

The exhibition ended with a 3D concert: what a fabulous way to close the show! So my afternoon ended in a studio – strange, as it had started in one too…

Dr Anne Gordon and I were interviewed live on breakfast TV to talk about childhood stroke.  I tweeted a photo from the Green Room!  We both felt terribly important sitting in there, waiting patiently for the floor manager to organise us. When she came, a pretty young lady called Jennifer, we thought she was taking us into hair and make-up.  How funny – we were so wrong!  Three steps through the busy office and we were in the actual studio, sitting behind a desk waiting for Luke Blackall, the show’s charismatic presenter.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnne is extremely eloquent, and described her work with the survivors of childhood stroke. I spoke briefly about my experience – seven years to the day of Oli being admitted into the Royal London Hospital.  As I said on TV, it’s a shock that hits so hard it’s very difficult to move on. But move forward we do.

This weekend I facilitated a support day in London for families of childhood stroke survivors, where four medical experts gave presentations and the parents who attended could see that they’re not alone.  It was a Stroke Association event, and donations and support from the public made it possible. Thanks to the team, and also to KAO for donating their lovely office space for the day.

Aside from the fun of this week, it’s been emotionally draining for me, but music usually cheers me up.  My enduring memory of Mick Jagger is the night of Live Aid, where he danced around in a green silk shirt with David Bowie, just two friends having fun in the wasteland that is now Docklands. “It doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there. So come on, every guy, grab a girl, everywhere around the world…”

There might not always be swinging, swaying and records playing, but there’s always social media.  If you need help with yours, call me – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Old friends, winning awards and psychedelic chocolate cake

Nicky and I met on our first day at college.  We’d both caught the wrong train and met up at the wrong station going the wrong way.  It turned out we were both signed up for English Lit, although I never attended the lectures, choosing instead to spend my afternoons in the photography lab.  Strange that I ended up with a Masters degree in Linguistics and couldn’t take a decent pic if my life depended on it. She’s got three degrees, so I guess we both found our way in the end…

We took psychology together but, while I was dipping films in a chemical bath, she was studying drama – with Alan Davies, with whom I fell in love, unrequited, and draped myself around during the never-ending lunch breaks in the refectory.  I could share my photos of him on social media now, but they’re old and faded; you can imagine how many fingerprints covered those proof sheets after he became famous!

There was no social media of any kind back then – computers were for spacemen and PacMan.  How different our lives might have been had not Winston raved about his Saturday job in Hamleys, encouraging us to sign up for weekend work selling balloons.  There was a small computer department there at that time – yes, Pacman – also Aliens.  No one was sure they’d take off….

After a year of unbelievable and unmentionable fun in the world’s best toy shop, I started my career in fashion while Nicky ventured off into the police.  We kept in touch for a few years, partying with Marion, then our lives diverged and Nicky moved up to Newcastle. Friends Reunited brought us together in 2004 for a brief breakfast in Vegas but we hadn’t seen each other since then.

hamleysSo a Whatsapp call out of the blue led to this weekend of frolicking (as much as women of a certain age are able…) through our old stomping ground of London’s Regent Street and surrounding areas. Gill joined us for our trip down memory lane – better known as Carnaby Street.  It’s a buzzing, trendy area that’s never lost its charm, despite losing the psychedelic orange paving stones.

The hour we spent in Hamleys generated a lot of laughter.  We didn’t realise at the time, but one of our old colleagues still works there – 38 years of service – how many people can beat that??!

‘Lunch’ was eight huge wedges of chocolate cake with a few dollops of ice cream and a generous squirt of sauce at Choccywoccydoodah – one of my favourite London cafés.  We all shared nicely and brought home the remainder for Sunday’s afternoon tea.

This week has started well with the news that four award applications I wrote for clients have all been shortlisted! So I’ll be attending a finalists’ celebration dinner next month in a swanky venue with wine and more delicious food.  Nicky commented that she ate more during her time with me than she’s eaten in the last whoever knows how long!! Perhaps I’ll switch from a social media blog to a food one…

Barbee, Beard and Shelby (otherwise known as Shalamar, but I like the sound of their names), said these very wise words: “If I had a dollar for every time that they have stood by my side helping things turn out right, I would be a millionaire.  And my wealth they would share ’cause I’d be nowhere without my friends.”

blog april 19Never a truer word.  Marion and I have worked together on and off for 33 years and she’s a fantastic asset to my business.  Wishing her a very happy birthday today!!  If you’d like to know what Marion does to keep our social media clients happy, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being 17, prison lunches and the marvelousness of LinkedIn

I fell in love with Andrew when I was 17 and in charge of the balloon department at Hamleys. He was blond, trendy and more than a bit whacky, working on the computer games counter which, in those days, was still a very new concept. The romance lasted a week and the friendship a fair while longer, as he lodged with Marion in various properties across London where we partied plenty and cooked blue food.

Andrew vanished from our lives once we started to grow up, and neither Marion nor I had any contact with him after about 1985. We didn’t forget him though, and often laughed about our youthful shenanigans over a bottle of Baileys or whilst wandering through the Scottish hills.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThen last week, everyone started posting ‘throwback’ photos on Facebook, and a hoard of smiling late teens / early 20-somethings started to fill my timeline. In choosing a suitable photo to add of myself, I came across one with Andrew; Marion and I laughed about it, again! But it spurred me on to find out if he was a) still alive, b) in the UK and c) well, never mind what we were wondering.

How amazing is LinkedIn??! Well, I can answer that in a professional sense, of course, as I run training sessions on its marvelousness – so a quick input at bedtime and three seconds later Andrew’s face was smiling up from my iPad. The exact same face, slightly older, hair a darker shade of dirty blond than the bright yellow of the 80s – and a beard! But the same nonetheless.

Whilst everyone thinks of Facebook as the hub for seeking out old friends and LinkedIn for professional contacts, they can naturally overlap.  Within 24 hours Marion and I had reconnected with people we’d worked with more than 30 years ago. We’re not planning to meet up, although it turns out that Andrew moved to Australia decades ago, so if an invitation is forthcoming, Marion and I will be quite happy to blog, tweet and post from Brisbane. Not that we’re hinting or anything…… (It’s pure coincidence that Preston Morley at Winchester Hawkins arranged my world-wide travel insurance only yesterday!)

This coming week’s quite busy, with a networking event today in Bank, dropping off my poetry artwork for next week’s New Home exhibition at the Mile End Gallery and lunch at Brixton Prison.  Yes, really!!  The Clink is an award-winning restaurant run by the ‘guests of Her Majesty’s establishment’ and has fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor.  It’s a brilliant concept that’s generated much press attention and even won the OFM award for best ethical restaurant 2015.  (I liked this Guardian review.)

Incidentally, I was in Brixton last week Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingtoo, to place a bunch of budding daffodils along with the thousands of other floral tributes at the Bowie memorial wall.  Very touching for a DB fan like me, but I’m not going with Bowie again for this week’s closing lyrics…

Instead, trying to think of a suitable prison song, my mind kept returning to Chicago, (possibly) one of the best musicals adapted for the screen, in my opinion. With Brenda Edwards being (possibly) my all-time favourite X Factor contestant, and she playing the part of Mama Morten on the west end stage, I thought game, set and match.  However, on reviewing the lyrics, they could (possibly) come across as being a bit rude (possibly).  Knowing that there’s a good chance my mum will complain, I’ve decided to go with it anyway – the cleanest verse, at least…

‘Got a little motto, always sees me through – When you’re good to Mama, Mama’s good to you!  There’s a lot of favours I’m prepared to do – You do one for Mama, she’ll do one for you!’

Off stage I don’t actually believe in tit for tat.  I’m always happy to help out where I can.  It’s equally true in business – to a degree!  If you need help with your social media and you’re a genuine start-up or small business on a tight budget, call for a chat about what we can offer you this spring.  As the daffodils grow, so can your business.  Ring me on 020 8551 7077, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.