Renee

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.

Women in the spotlight, a medieval wedding and finding your business

I’ve been to my first Slovakian wedding this week, in a medieval castle that retains a Roman inscription in its cliff-face.  It was beautiful. The castle provided a perfect setting for the ‘ceremony of love’ – no religion, no officiality, no formality, just romantic poetry and friends giving readings about the couple’s life together.

I didn’t know them; I was a plus-one. I know them now, obviously, and met some other cool people, including a Bolivian musician and a guy who completed a triathlon in a banana hammock.  We were treated to photos and a full description…

Trencin Castle is a couple of hours’ drive from anywhere, so we flew into Vienna and spent two days exploring the Romanesque city before heading to Slovakia.  I loved Vienna – as you can imagine, not least for its abundance of tea houses with their chocolate delicacies, squelching apple strudel, chocolate mousses, squidgy plum strudel, chocolate tortes and squishy other things that I generally ignore in favour of chocolate.

As with any major city, we were accosted within ten minutes by a street vendor, offering tickets to a classical concert by the Mozart Orchestra in the Konzerthaus. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love most kinds of live music, and I like dressing up – although we went in summer clothes and did not wear the regency dress and traditional wigs of that period, unlike the performers who looked authentic and sounded wonderful.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt’s such a stylish, decadent city, it was a pleasure just walking the streets or relaxing in the cafés watching the world go by. In the cultural quarter, we collapsed onto street beds – large lime-green coloured weatherproof loungers where we knocked back frozen yoghurt with fruits and chocolate sauce in between lunch and afternoon tea. These beds provided an eclectic contrast to the baroque architecture surrounding us, which didn’t matter as we closed our eyes in the sweltering sunshine.

The palaces we visited were elegance personified.  In the Schönbrunn Palace we muddled through the confusing family tree. I understand it better now that I’m back in London and googling… The men all blurred into one, so I focused on two of the women: Elizabeth, who became the wife of her first cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph I – an arranged marriage that took place when she was 16 and, while he adored her, she hated him. She spent her unhappy life in the spotlight, a beautiful woman travelling, socialising and dieting until being murdered on a trip to Geneva.  A sad story with many parallels to our own Diana.  Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty – a woman with 11 daughters, only one of whom was allowed to marry for love – just like the couple in Slovakia!

One of their 21st century wedding guests, who was also visiting Vienna, checked out the wedding party’s hotel address on Google, determinedly thumping the coordinates into his satnav despite his girlfriend commenting that it seemed to be a different address to the email confirmation. After two hours of driving in an apparently wrong direction, both believing this to be TomTom’s clever means of rerouting to bypass traffic jams, he ended up in a Slovakian field, 150 miles south west of his hoped-for destination!

The lessons here are: a.) if you run a business that relies on people finding you, it is imperative that your online address is as clear as the crystals suspended from the chandeliers at the Schönbrunn Palace. Head offices at a different location, warehouses, showrooms etc should be clearly defined so there can be no confusion.  Check your markers on Google’s mapping systems. And b.) sometimes it’s worth listening to your girlfriend.

It seems too obvious to quote Midge Ure’s lyrics, and anyway, that’s a depressing song, far removed from the bright, happy trip I’ve just had.  But it’s late and my brain is still in holiday mode… “The music is weaving. Haunting notes, pizzicato strings – the rhythm is calling.”  Rhythm was certainly calling all week, so that’s appropriate anyway. From the classical concert to the two amazing bands who played in that stunning location on a craggy cliff, halfway below the historic castle walls and above the ancient town.

We danced, we laughed, we drank various local nail-polish-removing-type brews. Now we’re back at work and I’m helping my clients to make sure their businesses are visible online in all the right places. If you’d like to be more easily found, give me a call, drop me an email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Sad songs, happy days and so you win again

It’s always a pleasure to write a winning award application, as the clients I work with are awesome and I totally believe in the services they provide. So I can write from the heart, with passion and, of course, knowledge.

18485663_10208699780441789_90201385747404553_nNordens, the fabulous accountancy firm that I always recommend, won yet another gong this week: ICAEW’s Accountancy Firm of the Year (Essex). It’s the Chartered Institute of Accountants for England and Wales, so it’s a pretty big deal.  They’ve won it before, along with various other prestigious accolades, including the British Accountancy Awards Practice of the Year for London.

I joined the team for a black-tie dinner at Stock Brook Manor Country Club. There was no dancing, but a lot of champagne and surprisingly delicious pork belly – which I’ve always steered well clear of, but my son highly recommends – so I tried it, and now I’m a convert.

18556413_1460548417342827_1240640762771653331_nWe spent the following day on a trip to Ramsgate, a small Victorian seaside town in Kent. Another lovely meal followed our walk along the beach (with brollies). Again, there was no dancing, although I was one of the first up for the coach karaoke on the way back to London. Sharon and I have a long history of duets, so we sang a couple of ‘popular numbers’ together – not our usual repertoire of 1970’s cheerful hits: Billy, don’t be a hero and Seasons in the sun. (For some reason we always sang really sad songs about people dying!!?!)

Back at the office, Nordens have displayed their latest trophy along with their many other shiny, crystal awards. I don’t have an awards table in my own office. My recent CEO of the Year Award sits alongside my Inspirational Woman trophy on a bookcase filled with art books. My collection of social media and business books are nestled onto a shelf on another bookcase (you can get some of the them here) next to trusty dictionaries and thesauruses that were staple tools of my Plain English Business Writing before the Internet made everything available without the need to reach out even a glossily painted fingertip to grab a book.

IMG_0597The bookcases overlook a garden that’s disgracefully full of weeds. I’m slowly cultivating a beautiful outdoor space but it takes time. I’d really prefer a garden like the one I visited yesterday at Ayot St Lawrence’s Manor House. The Tudor property is my dream home, set in my dream garden – complete with azure pool (now I can swim!), tennis court (it’s been a long time), an orchard, vegetable gardens and the most exquisite displays of flowers all around.

When I got home I googled to find out who lives in such a glorious home.  Such a small world – the first people I spoke to about the garden said, “Oh yes, they’re our friends. They used to live next door!” Now, I’m not normally an envious person, and I don’t hashtag anything unless it’s in the appropriate place (Twitter, where relevant and useful, and Instagram, where expected) – however, just for today… #jealous.

This is the Terry Jacks song I was talking about earlier; please note that I didn’t choose the lyrics ‘too much wine and too much song’ even though they are probably more appropriate this week! “You gave me love and helped me find the sun., and every time that I was down you would always come around, and get my feet back on the ground.”

I can help you get your business feet on the ground, if that’s what you need – or I can help you spread your wings and fly. Without social media, who knows you’re there? (Are you there??) I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Seasons in the sun: Writer: Brel, JR, Copyright: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Carlin America Inc.

No social media strategy, pushing boundaries and taking a giant leap

The Isle of Mull is a beautiful island off the west coast of Scotland. In fact, beautiful is an understatement.  I’ve been to various Caribbean islands with foamy waves atop azure seas, and walked the rugged Cornish coastline in all weathers, yet the pure, unspoilt loveliness of Mull is unrivalled.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingMarion and I spent last weekend there – supposedly to work on client social media strategies, but, in reality, to clear our minds (without being overly-mindful), eat fresh seafood and meet interesting people over a glass (or two) of red wine.

We trekked through hilltop forests filled with giant rhododendron bushes and stunning waterfalls, drove across vast areas of prehistoric landscape and stepped carefully across ancient white beaches that make the Bahamas seem dull – teeming with birds that she can identify and I had to squint to see.

One of the most impressive people we met was a young woman working in the castle giftshop. She and her new husband gave up high pressured jobs in London to buy a motorhome, and they travel around the country stopping wherever they fancy. They’re in Mull for the summer, as they love its beauty and calmness – although that may change once the influx of tourists hits in high season. They’ve pitched up in someone’s garden and live a simple life – working at the castle while enjoying a life that’s free from reliance on possessions and material goods.

Talk about a leap and a half. It was a brave and bold move, but the opportunity arose and they grabbed it with twenty fingers. I admire that. (You’re also brave if you’re running a business without a social media strategy! Maybe not so bold though…)

Back in London, I spent an afternoon at the Tate Modern, catching up with an old friend for lunch then laughing together at Wolfgang Tillman’s photographic exhibition.  I have to admit that it wasn’t my favourite art display, although kudos to him for achieving a glittering career that has led him to one of the foremost galleries in the world. The contemporary works are described as an exhibition that “pushes the boundaries.” Hmmm…

Another cultural event this week also almost pushed boundaries…. A trip to the theatre to see The Girls, Gary Barlow’s musical based on the Calendar Girls’ story: the WI ladies who stripped naked for a charity calendar. It was quite enjoyable, although a bunch of 60-something women stripping off on stage is a bit ‘different.’ That story was fantastic though – the real one, I mean. Eleven members of the Women’s Institute who normally displayed flowers, cakes and pots of home-made jam, getting their kits off to raise money.  It worked – they have successfully raised over £5million for leukaemia research!

I was almost tempted to end this blog with ‘Calendar Girl’ lyrics, and I’m pretty sure as I flicked through the Evening Standard last week it said Neil Sedaka is doing another concert – but no. It’s too much. Anyway, many people seem to think the following lyrics were written about The Isle of Mull, but they weren’t.  They were written about another (apparently) gorgeous place, by Paul McCartney (the one Gill and I met, but that’s another story in another blog).

“Smiles in the sunshine and tears in the rain still take me back where my memories remain. Flickering embers go higher and higher.” If your business is a bit of a flickering ember and you’d like to fan the flame, give me a call to chat about how social media marketing can help. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

PS I know someone will email me to say it’s 16 fingers and four thumbs!

Portrait painting, traditional dining and a night at the ballet. (A contemporary cultured week!)

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who got in touch regarding my CEO of the Year award.  I really appreciated the emails, messages on social media and texts from friends. It was lovely of you, and I hope I’ve replied to everyone.

I’m back at art class in fits and starts this term.  Well, not term as it’s not a school; the studio is a trendy communal living space above a pub, twinkling with fairy lights, interesting with strange and unusual objet d’art and lively with a bunny hopping about. But anyway, since Ed got back from his travels I’ve had various things on a Wednesday to prevent me going.  This week Jon is over from San Diego so I’ll be missing my creative fix again.

To avoid artistic withdrawal, I’m going to the final heat of the Portrait Artist of the Year competition on Thursday.  It’s being held at the Wallace Collection, a beautiful little art gallery and museum close to Bond Street. I popped in there last week to see the artists in one of the early heats. The celebrity models sat for four hours in poses that were about as relaxed as you can get for a rigid afternoon, fully clothed (unlike my Wednesday art class) and keeping their eyes fixed zombie-like on a ‘spot in the distance.’

Robert Bathurst sort-of smiled at me though, probably because I was staring. I loved him in Cold Feet – might have hung around to say hello if I’d been on my own and in less of a rush to get home to eat my first Easter egg.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn Thursday I pushed the cultural boat across a foaming wave and went to the ballet. Sadler’s Wells is the home of British dance, so I imaged beautiful ballerinas in rose-coloured tutus pirouetting across the stage. I went with someone who has dated several ballerinas in the past, so I think he was hoping for that too.  But it wasn’t.

Matthew Bourne, the choreographer, is a master contemporary storyteller in the ballet genre.  The dancing and portrayals were amusing and (whispers…) a bit strange.  The website described it as “Yearning pas de deuxs and pastoral clog-dances feature in Town and Country’s post-war vignettes.” And, “Take a trip to Gay Paree with The Infernal Galop, as all the glorious clichés of 30s and 40s Paris are paraded (and can-canned) across the stage.” It was fun.  It was different, but it didn’t make me want to put on my pastel pink silk ballet shoes – although I did actually wear them yesterday for driving (as flip flops are dangerous) so maybe that was a subconscious fashion choice.

The ‘town and country’ sketches featured people dressed as cows (at least, I think they were cows!).  This image links nicely to Saturday night’s dinner at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. It owns its own farm where meat is cultivated for diners’ enjoyment, and we wolfed our way through an enormous roast beef platter – finished on Sunday by a friendly dog named Digby who absolutely refused to give up his cordon bleu bone.

I do love a bit of history, and Rules’ traditional dining rooms are decorated much as they would have been back in 1798. Throughout its 220-year heritage, the tables here have been crowded with writers, artists and actors. Charles Dickens and H G Wells were regulars, and no doubt a ballet dancer or two.  Maybe even Robert Bathhurst, but that’s just a guess.

I visited Elton John’s photography collection recently at the Tate Modern.  It’s a cool, inspired assembly of classic modernist work that he’s amassed over the past few decades.  I’m just mentioning this because I could only think of Abba’s song about Nina Pretty Ballerina this morning, so I googled – and Elton popped up.  I’d forgotten this song, but it’s quite lovely. “Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man. Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand.”

Tiny dancer, short week, long Pimms. Enjoy your Easter, Passover, long weekend – and keep in touch: @WeekendWitch.

Corporate Vision Magazine’s Award for CEO of the Year goes to…

I’m celebrating!!

Having received a prestigious business award (and no, it’s not a chocolate trophy from Thorntons!!) I’m inviting you to share in the celebrations with bubbly, home-made muffins and discounts!

I’m very proud that Corporate Vision has named me as CEO of the Year for London, 2017.

In addition, I have been named in the UK Independent Business Honours for Excellence in Training, Coaching and Instruction.

This recognition came as a very welcome honour – and complete surprise!  Well, shock really.  After all, I’m not the largest social media agency in London, which proves yet again that size doesn’t matter – especially when you have good quality online visibility.

Here’s a larger version  of the article for those of us who don’t like tiny print, or you can read it in Corporate Vision’s March 2017 edition on page 88.

CV article

In case you don’t know the magazine, Corporate Vision features topics such as business strategy, emerging trends and the various challenges facing businesses today. The annual awards are research-based, with the panel shortlisting candidates and selecting winners based on information including industry journals, local and national press and client testimonials.

My thanks to the teams at Corporate Vision for choosing me in both categories – and even bigger thanks to those of you who have written testimonials and recommendations, both for my website and on LinkedIn.

So, to celebrate that my training is now officially ‘excellent,’ I’m offering 15% off all courses booked before 30th April 2017 and delivered before July. I’ll bring along my home made muffins (you can choose the flavour) and a bottle of bubbly! Drop me an email or chat via social media if you’d like to find out more..

Inspiration, cakes in Shoreditch and champagne with the man who woke me every day

Driving to the Park Plaza for Friday night’s Soldiering On Awards was a poignant experience.  Sadly, roadside floral tributes have become commonplace, but the crowds spilling out around Westminster Square were eerily quiet as they tiptoed over bouquets and read tribute cards while some, strangely, photographed them.

There was nothing quiet at the awards though! At the Park Plaza on the far side of Westminster Bridge cheering and clapping were the order of the day as over 500 people gathered to celebrate the Soldiering On Awards, recognising the achievements of men, women – and some incredible animals – who have been seriously injured in military service. These winners, in fact all the finalists that were gathered to be honoured there, have gone on to inspire others and create excellence from their tragedies.

C702WVNXwAABuVSIt’s unthinkable. Most of us are lucky enough to never suffer life-changing experiences and we simply can’t imagine what these people have been through, but there was nothing miserable or depressing in that room.  It was empowering.

My highlight of the evening was meeting Mike Read, the DJ whose captivating voice woke me every morning through college, my job in fashion and right up until I broke my clock radio. We spent half an hour chatting about this and that, he got me champagne, he said he couldn’t dance with me later as he hasn’t had dancing lessons – I told him I’m having swimming lessons, not that that was relevant.

17498727_10155169751331255_8419109128308697501_nAnyway, as far removed as most of us are (hopefully forever) from catastrophic injury, many of us do suffer from debilitating or unrelenting illnesses and that can be as difficult emotionally and physically as an unprovoked wound.  You may already know that I work with the Stroke Association to raise awareness of childhood stroke – a cruel and devastating trauma that can change the lives of a baby, child, teenager – and their families, often irrevocably.

I won’t harp on about that today – many of you have read my son Oli’s story, and it’s one that I’m eternally grateful turned out okay for him. I’m just mentioning it because, as I’m typing this, I’m also preparing for a meeting at the Stroke Association’s head office near Shoreditch. (Multitasking at its best – also eating chocolate and keeping one eye on Homeland.)

17555560_10155176863146255_8416856_nI’ll be going from there to visit clients in Hoxton (close to the hotel where my website was hacked!) to chat about Instagram and blogging. I’ve been promised hot chocolate and cake in a Hoxton café, so that will be nice! Although I have to admit I’m a bit caked out after last week’s Bake Off at my client and accountants in Woodford.  Nordens holds this competition annually for the team to bring in their delicious home-made creations – and guess who was a judge? Yes, me!! Well I do have rather a lot of experience eating cake.  Congratulations to Cydney who won with a lovely light lemon drizzle cake topped with mini Easter eggs.

17554955_10155176858516255_58716285_nWhich reminds me, my lovely friends at Kennards Artisan Chocolates (Desire4Food) created a huge Easter egg that was auctioned off at the Soldiering On Awards for a nice few hundred pounds.  (I don’t know the exact amount, but sadly I was outbid.) Massive thanks to them for their unswerving generosity and support.  They’re somewhere around Shoreditch today too, in a pop up shop – so I’ll pop up to visit them while I’m in town.  If you’re around there too check out their Facebook page and join me for a pre-Easter chocolatey treat!

Mike Read’s career has spanned over 40 years as a DJ, writer, journalist, TV presenter, songwriter and much, much more.  For my generation, there’s one song that we remember vividly as zooming to the top of the charts after he banned it from Radio 1’s playlist! (Coincidentally, Holly Johnson, who wrote it, bought a Swarovski diamanté brooch that Joan and I had selected for the Principles stores when I worked in fashion buying. I’d probably listened to Mike that very morning.) As Mr Johnson says, “Shoot it in the right direction, make making it your intention. Live those dreams, scheme those schemes; hit me, hit me, hit me with those laser beams.”

If you intend giving your business a quick blast in the right direction, feel free to call me for advice – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Incredible animals, a 19-course meal and fun on International Women’s Day

It’s two weeks to the Soldiering On Awards. This champagne-fuelled, glitzy evening will celebrate the best of inspirational people, charities and organisations within the military family. Someone decided that each finalist is worthy of public recognition and a shiny golden trophy, and the excitement to find out who has won is mounting.

Last week, two of my colleagues from the charity invited me to an amazing lunch – choosing the menu for the awards dinner! As you may already know from previous blogs (or from eating out with me) I have a healthy appetite.  But I have to admit that, on this occasion, the food actually beat me. We enjoyed the equivalent of 19 tasting courses – along with four glasses of wine!

That’s not a typo.  19 courses.  Six beautiful canapés, decorated with tiny pansies and the most delicate sprigs of herbs preceded a lunch of five hors d’oeuvres, five main courses and three desserts. Then petit fours and coffee.  (I had mint tea.) I posted a couple of pics on Facebook, and people commented of course, especially on the wonderful desserts. If you’re feeling jealous, don’t be! I felt totally ill afterwards 🙂

Then on Friday I was invited to a Women in Business event held by Newham Chamber of Commerce at the snazzy offices of Freshfields law firm in the city. This wonderful morning celebrated International Women’s Day (which was actually two days previous to that, but we’re worth celebrating every day, right?!) This year’s theme: Be Bold for Change.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingRather than eat the breakfast (which did look delicious but was too early for me; I had to get up at 5,30 to be there on time), I spent the first hour or so chatting with Anita Dobson. What a lovely lady! I’ve seen her act, obviously, and in real life she was a delight to spend time with. Both being eastenders, (you see what I did there?) we chatted about days gone by spent at the Ilford Palais, the perils of getting older, such as reading menus at arms’ length, and our shared love of cats.

 

This led on to a chat about animal charities, and I invited her to the Soldiering On Awards, as one category is for a remarkable animal that’s served in the military or worked as part of the military family. I hope she can make it.

Following the breakfast and networking, the morning was a panel discussion of eight super-interesting women hosted by newsreader Julie Etchingham. She’s an incredibly smart lady who flawlessly directed questions at the panel members for an hour.

While most people were impressed with me meeting celebrities, Gill was more excited that I’d also met the founder of her ‘Clubbercise’ class! Claire Burlison Green has built a global business from women exercising to disco music waving glow sticks in the air.  She brought a couple with her for demonstration purposes, but didn’t hand them out to the audience, sadly. It would have been fun on the underground at rush hour.

We didn’t have glow sticks back in the Ilford Palais days. All I remember now is the two of us in little blue corduroy dresses that barely covered our bums, a glass of water with ice and lemon, and a group that hopped on stage singing Let’s Dance when the DJ had his break. (I also remember not wearing coats as we preferred to save the 20p for the cloakroom – so walking home at 1am in the winter, freezing those exposed bottoms and discussing the geography homework we had to finish before going to bed…)

“Let’s sway, while colour lights up your face. Let’s sway – sway through the crowd to an empty space.” While Bowie was singing that – or the people in the 80s band were, we had no idea that 30 years later the crowds would have moved online and social media would fill all the empty spaces. Are you filling yours? I’m around this week if you need any help – here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Arts memberships, soaring doves and David Hockney’s bum

Being a member of the Tate is so wonderful when a major exhibition hits town and tickets sell out in seconds.  The Guardian reported that the Hockney exhibit sold over 20,000 tickets before it opened, with some visitors having to wait until 9pm for their chance to see the eclectic collection of artworks. I later heard is was completely sold out, but I’m not sure if this is true.

Anyway, early or late, it’s worth it. I chose to go late, simply because it was the only chance I had to get there during its first week of opening.  And that choice is one of the beauties of membership; I can just walk in without pre-booking.  The only problem with late night gallery viewing is that the café was closed, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to forego your cream bun in the name of art.

I was familiar with the most well-known pieces of course – but I had no idea his styles spanned different genres. The retrospective begins with Hockney’s early works from the 60’s, covering six decades of rich, vibrant paintings and installations, right up to the pieces that blew me away: his iPad and iPhone creations!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingNow I’m trying that, but it’s not working out. I think you need time to get the hang of it – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I had a sudden splurge of creativity to get out of my system this week, so I hijacked an easel that I’d bought for Ben several Christmases ago and which has remained neatly in its box, and made a commitment to paint some celebrities. I need my art class to resume – I miss it. (And no, before anyone comments I don’t mean the naked men!!)

PS – post script – written after I thought I’d finished but worth adding in… We caught the end of a documentary about Hockney on BBC4 late on Sunday night. Within two minutes of hearing him discuss something art-related, we saw the great man strip naked and run with everything dangling into an azure-tiled shower cubicle with a skylight!  If I thought I’d seen all of David Hockney beforehand, I certainly have seen it all now!

On a more sobering thought… Our family lost a wonderful lady recently, and Nanna Joyce was buried last week in a lovely spot in London.  At her graveside, Carol and Denise released two white doves that flew in perfect unison, soaring high above us as the sun crept out to cast a warm shadow over the mourners.  The colour theme was lilac and purple, so today’s lyrics seemed an obvious choice.

“Dream if you can a courtyard; an ocean of violets in bloom. Animals strike curious poses – they feel the heat, the heat between me and you.”

I’ve shed tears for Nanna Joyce, and I’ve shed tears for Prince. But memories are always beautiful. That’s why the Facebook feature of reminding you of memories from past years is so popular. Do you share yours? If you need help to do so, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.