Renee

Gatsby, Annie and dancing over Instagram

I’ve developed an unprecedented craving for pickled cucumber. No, before you ask, I’m not pregnant.  Although the time clock is ticking on that one. If I wanted another baby I’d better get a move on. I don’t though – a phrase that various members of my family will be relieved to read. It’s enough taking care of Charlie who, at the time of writing, is giving me the gift of a pigeon – delivered one feather at a time through his high-tech cat flap.  Anyway, I have two wonderful sons who will probably make me a grandmother one day soon. Aargh!! Quick!! Turn back the clock!

22290666_10155807902531255_1616715340_oTime definitely turned back this week when I took a couple of lovely teenage girls to Gatsby’s Drugstore in Borough for an immersive evening of interactive theatre. Gatsby, Daisy and Myrtle acted out their sorry story to an audience that learned to Charleston – a dance that’s close to my heart, as my grandparents were world champions!! If only they’d had Facebook and Instagram back then! They were very photogenic anyway, so with a few heel twists and swings the social media activity would have been through the roof.

aaaaaaaaaaaaTime also stood still at a performance of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre on Thursday. Annie is the first west end show I remember seeing, aged about ten. My newly- found cousins Harry and Dorothy visited from Florida and took us for a treat. I’ve written about Harry before in this blog – he was an incredible man who led the army in to liberate Auschwitz. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. That knowledge came much later, when Adey donated the war correspondence his wife had saved, to the Washington Holocaust Museum. That theatre trip was with my dance champion grandparents too! I have one special photo from around that time; it sits on the bookcase overlooking my desk where Charlie likes to lie as I work.

22154353_10155272772033423_3738147764438839508_nOn the other side of the family, crazy cute Stephen appeared via Facebook five years ago. He’s here for a visit now, and we braved the forecast gales on Sunday to admire the cityscape from the Sky Garden. London is phenomenal from the sky, and 35 floors up you get a fabulous view of the eclectic mix of architecture and the sheer scale of the best city in the world. We’re taking time out to visit another of my favourites this week: Paris. No doubt we’ll be tweeting!

This may be twee, but I don’t know any Charleston song lyrics and it’s too early for anything Parisian. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow; bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun. Just thinking about tomorrow scares away the cobwebs and the sorrow ’til there’s none.” Hopefully the sun will be shining right across Europe this week! So, you’ll find me for the rest of this week either back at ground level in London or hanging over the Eiffel Tower in France. Or here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.

Artistic surrealism, my new best thing and why I’ll be there for you (Because you’re there for me too!)

Whether or not you watched it, you’ll probably agree that Friends was a tv and cultural phenomenon. For ten years those six pretty people graced our screens and, for some of us, they continue to do so with timeless wit and humour bursting forth on a Comedy Central loop. The characters were each so well written, accurately developed and consistent over the course of the decade they shared with us viewers. Their lines were perfectly delivered making us feel for them as genuine friends.

I was a similar age to these ‘friends’ when the seasons first aired, so able to relate to the trials and tribulations of their lives with ease and laughter. But anyway, my friends are better!

So it was with a fair amount of giggling that Gill and I drove over to Clissold Park, in what was once a horribly run-down part of Hackney but is now a highly sought after residential area. First of all, the café was fabulous.  We had lunch in the converted manor house then wandered across to the first Friends Fest I’ve ever heard of in the UK.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training

Having tea in Rachel and Monica’s kitchen

It was partly rubbish, partly awesome. No celebrities were evident but the girls taking photos in ‘Central Park’ and ‘Central Perk’ were lovely, and we had such fun! The highlight of the afternoon was a studio tour of the sets of the Manhattan apartments which served as centre stage for the whole decade. We posted loads of pics on Facebook of course, plus a few on Instagram.

In the programme, Monica was a chef – and being in ‘her kitchen’ inspired me to bake a little extra when I got home.  The Jewish New Year is always a good excuse to whack out a couple of honey cakes and my new gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate brownies went down a storm. Sharon provided three amazing desserts for Thursday night when 20 cousins came for dinner (thanks again, Sharon!) – and I followed up with platters of cinnamon balls (wrong holiday) and Italian orange and almond cookies (not Jewish at all but my new best thing). Happy new year to everyone who’s celebrating!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training Instead of attending synagogue on Friday, I accidentally went instead to the V&A to catch the Pink Floyd exhibition before it closes next month. Their Mortal Remains is Amazing with a capital A. Although, the aspects I loved were less about the men and their music and more about the fantastic, surrealist art. I knew very little about this iconic band other than their hit Another brick in the wall.  I used lyrics from that song in a school social studies essay and I remember the teacher (Beryl Evans) correcting them! It really peed me off at the time – and, clearly, I still hold a grudge, remembering it well some 37 years later!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training We also visited the Balenciaga Shaping Fashion exhibition, a display of the influential designer’s exquisite work. It takes me back to my fashion buying days and makes me wonder, again, how my life might have panned out if I’d stuck to that career instead of diverting at the age of 23. My job was actually very similar to Rachel’s in Friends.

Was this a one-hit wonder for the Rembrandts? I don’t know what else they’ve done, but they certainly hit the jackpot with this song! “So no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke; your love life’s D.O.A. It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear – when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year.”

My job’s no joke. It certainly makes me smile but it’s very important, especially for business owners who don’t have the time, skills or manpower to handle their own social media. There’s no need for your business to be stuck in second gear – I’ll help you get a move on. “I’ll be there for you!!” Here I am: @WeekendWitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lyrics: Jonathan Larson, Universal Music Publishing Group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Idols, dating a roadie and less cheerful endings

I wasn’t planning to write about George Michael – we’ve all read so much about him since his tragic passing on Christmas Day that’s it’s reaching saturation point, especially on Facebook. But it’s true to say that he was a major influence in my formative years and, being the third of my late-teen musical heroes to be snatched away during 2016, I decided to jot this down (even if it’s only Gill and Martine who read it).

It made me so sad, but I smiled thinking about dancing to the Wham Rap 12″ in Gill’s bedroom. (Half my readers won’t know what that means!) We dressed like Shirley and Dee C Lee, with floaty rah-rah skirts and distressed leather boots. Dee’s sister went to my college – I think her name was Diane, and Dee came in to sing one afternoon. Not with George, unfortunately, but it was fun all the same.

My Twitter profile says, ‘Doing everything, regretting nothing,’ yet we always regretted that we hadn’t gone along to the filming of Wake me up before you go-go. We had the fluorescent tops and glowing beads, the big hair and the wide smiles… Gill even had an authentic Choose Life t-shirt. The fashion and Wham!’s music absolutely typified our late teens.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI’ve used the phrase ‘soundtrack to my life’ many times, and this really was. Bowie, Prince and Wham! were constants on my fake Walkman, and featured on the regular playlist at the Ilford Palais – the salubrious nightclub where we spent most nights leading up to our GCEs meeting men called Ossie, Moike and Ben Down. It was a step up from the Brixton Academy at the time though, which may be why we didn’t venture down to south London for the now iconic video filming and a chance to meet George and Andrew,

We did go to quite a few concerts though.  I dated a roadie one year who got us tickets for consecutive nights. I didn’t particularly like him – I think his identical twin had the better personality, but the benefits were good… It was during that tour that we first saw George sing Careless Whisper.  He sat alone on the stage on a solitary stool, and I remember thinking that those beautiful lyrics might be my favourite ever.  As it’s turned out they’re not – but they’re probably somewhere in the top 20.

Band Aid played on the TV on Christmas Day while we were busy with the Silly Sausage that had looked so good when Kylie poked it on Jonathan Ross last week. I was pointing out to the boys how our 80s pop idols are, today, either timeless megastars or no longer with us. I pointed excitedly at George, with his floppy blond highlighted locks, unaware that he’d drifted into the second category as we pulled and twisted the silly plastic toy.

Then, of course, the obligatory Last Christmas came on.  They played a clip of it later, after the news broke, and it made me cry.

100million albums sold – that’s quite a number.  Prince achieved pretty much the same, and Bowie sold at least 140m, spanning a longer career.  I bought quite a few of all those.  And now, three of my five long-term favourites have gone in one year.  (Stay safe Meatloaf and Madonna!!) As Mr Panayiotou will still be saying long after our generation has stopped dancing, “Time can never mend the careless whispers of a good friend. To the heart and mind, ignorance is kind; there’s no comfort in the truth –  pain is all you’ll find.”

It’s been a far less cheerful ending to Christmas than usual, what with George passing, and various family members missing the holidays due to flu. But next week is a new year, and the start of wonderful things for everyone who believes that wonderful things can happen if you believe hard enough. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas week! I’m working today, then not… but you can still catch me here if you need anything social media-related: @WeekendWitch.

Fairytale castles, foreign art galleries and the beauty of Facebook

I spent a few days in Prague last week, having fun with my boys, visiting all the main tourist attractions and eating copious amounts of traditional Czech food. Rich and heavy (the food); poorer and heavier (me, following the food!).

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBetween wandering through the ancient castle grounds and sparkling Christmas markets, sipping thick hot chocolate and gulping hot blueberry wine, we met up with Jana, a lady we hadn’t seen for around 16 years. Jana was the boys’ au pair in the days when they were shorter than me, and we lost touch for a few years until Facebook brought us back together.

I spend much of my time now showing businesses how to capitalise on Facebook for commercial purposes, but it began as simply a social site and this is a wonderful example of its brilliance. Jana found me online a few years ago, and we’ve been able to see how our respective lives have moved on, share celebrations and little niceties, like wishing each other happy birthday.  Very minor things in the scheme of the universe, but they’re the tiny touches that add colour to our lives.

Before social media kicked in, we relied on letters and postcards to keep in touch and I, for one, was rubbish at all that.  I have a big tapestry bag in the loft filled with old letters, mainly from Marion and Gill, and a few from Mark in Bermuda. Each time I start a spring clean I open the bag but can’t bear to chuck the contents – they’re a reminder of a previous life, before social media, before kids, before mortgages.

The bag also contains many, many, many photos… There’s a big change. I rarely print off pics now, sharing instead of Facebook or keeping them locked into my phone. I shared loads of Prague photos – cobbled streets with ice cream coloured fairytale buildings, river scenes, art galleries and desserts. And photos of Jana, of course.

The art gallery was a bonus. I’m usually hard pushed to get the boys inside one without a huge fuss, bus this was Ben’s suggestion. Dali, Warhol and Mucha – whom I had mistakenly thought was Parisian. It was a wonderful mix.  One of my Facebook friends recently said, “Art brings people together. I am reminded that ‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘Eh?” I love that! (Sorry – can’t remember who I stole it from, but thank you!)

Elton’s was the song of the holiday, even though I never did quite learn the correct lyrics.  “She packed my bags last night pre-flight; zero hour nine a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.”

Whether you’re packing to go away or spending the holidays at home, I wish you a wonderful Christmas.  We’ll be around on social media right through the festive season, so if you need anything, you can find me here: @WeekendWitch.

Landmarks, cocktails and hidden Parisian pleasure

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingGill and I like to hop around Europe every October to mark the end of sunny summer, the start of a crisp autumn, and our birthdays. This year, we chose the close proximity of Paris for our mini holiday – the aforementioned hop, plus a skip and a jump, a quick ride on Eurostar and there we were, in the city of love, culture and impressionist art.

If either Philip or Alison are reading this blog, stop now! You don’t need to know what follows…

Having spent the first evening dining in Saint Germain, the quintessentially Parisian quarter close to our hotel on Rive Gauche, we popped in to a gorgeous patisserie and chocolatier to pick up some gifts. Each having friends who love salted caramel, we bought some of the gooey stuff, beautifully presented in glass gift jars with tiny silver spoons. A couple of enormous gift bags later, satisfied with our culinary purchases, we had the sparkling idea of climbing to the top of the Eiffle Tower for a midnight hot chocolate while the on-the-hour lights glittered around us.

Throughout Paris, security is comfortingly visible. Gendarmes parade the streets with their Ruger (not so) Mini rifles clearly at the ready, and every public building requires an airport-style security check. I’ve been stopped at the airport before when an underwired bra has made a spectacle of itself, but entering a tourist attraction is generally unremarkable.  Not this time though.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” enquired the bemused security guard holding up the little jars, obviously hoping for the final hour of her night shift to pass without complication.

“Salted caramel sauce, obviously…”

“Hmmmmmm. Non.”

Despite our protestations, the sticky caramel intended for ice cream embellishment was a horrible security threat to the French capital, and there was no way we were being allowed onto the landmark with the scary sauces.  So what to do? We’d travelled there by taxi, it was close to midnight and we really wanted to go up.  I’m not sure now whose idea it was to hide the caramel, but that’s what we decided to do.

Laughingly, we bypassed the many street traders hawking their neon-flashing wares and walked to the darkness of some nearby bushes, growing inconspicuously between street lamps and men with ‘best price selfie-sticks.’ Glancing around to see if we were being watched, we chucked the small jars under a bush and hoped for the best.  Would they still be there when we returned? (We certainly didn’t share that information on Facebook.)

The Tower is amazing at night, with spectacular views across the city. And when we descended an hour later, we found, to our surprise and intense pleasure…. The two jars still lying beneath the bush. Not sure whether any tramps had peed on them, or drug dealers injected them with any sort of illegal substances, but we took the chance that they hadn’t and chose to ignore all possibilities of salted caramel sabotage. Nice gifts, eh?!

The holiday was wonderful, with lots of lovely French cuisine, hot chocolate, cocktails that I think cost more than Eurostar, open top bus rides, a scenic cruise, three art galleries, three churches (where I lit candles for little Joey – and thank you to everyone who sent condolences; very much appreciated). We also managed to visit all the major tourist attractions plus a couple of beautiful lesser-known ones.

Now it’s back to work in still-sunny (at the time of writing!) Angleterre, creating client blogs, ensuring people’s social media accounts are well managed and pumpkin carving.

The only French song I can think of right now is the possibly-inappropriate Lady Marmalade… Oh, oh – as I typed that another tune popped into my head!! “Flash is fast, flash is cool, Francois sais pas, Flashe no deux.” Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but I’m still in holiday mode.

Enjoy your Halloween week! And don’t forget I’m always happy to retweet your scary pics: @WeekendWitch.

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.