Renee

Global business, LinkedIn profiles and Viking Pirate Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubt they looked like this in Viking times…

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

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

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

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

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

LinkedIn testimonials, aerodynamics and making a smash

I’m learning to swim! You may be shocked at this admission, but it’s true.  Some of my friends – mainly Gill and Mark, who have both rescued me from the sea in summers gone by, will be relieved. I made this decision on the spur of the moment, then two years later Sue called to recommend her friend David, a one-to-one teacher who gets in the water and stops your hips from sinking – even if you have just eaten a whole bag of Selfridges’ macarons.

I could kind-of swim a bit. I mean I could get across the width of a pool flapping gracelessly and with about as much technique as a handbag. So, my first lesson was a success. I floated aerodynamically, blew bubbles underwater, then performed a rudimentary kind of backstroke. David seemed pleased. I certainly was.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI learned my kind-of swimming in Florida when I was 15. Terrified of getting my face splashed, my cousin Harry taught me to close my eyes, put my face in the water and float like Marina. (Gerry Anderson’s marionette.  Possibly a subconscious purchase, I do have a very similar dress to hers: aquamarine, beaded and floaty. But then I also have a Star Trek uniform like Marina Sirtis, and I don’t much fancy the idea of intergalactic flight.) Anyway, that’s how I did it for the next 10 or so years, until I forgot and reverted to panicky sploshing around.

Dating a Masters swimmer and boat-owner changed all that. Last year, on a particularly wet and dismal afternoon at Rutland Water, muscles aching from clenching in fear and fingernails ragged as they smashed against the mast, I was convinced I was going to die. As the boat tipped 44 degrees and I prepared to make a splash, I became determined to conquer my fear of water.  Really, as any good Scorpion should!

Last week I was wined and dined on the 32nd floor of Canary Wharf.  Actually, that sentence borders on exaggeration and artistic licence; no red wine, I was driving later, But he drank Beaujolais, so that counts. We were discussing social media training sessions and the popularity of LinkedIn training.  I love working with business owners on a one-to-one basis to create outstanding profiles and show them how to maximise the benefits of LinkedIn for business.

The views are always great from Canary Wharf, and this time we had the added bonus of window cleaners rising up before us as they haphazardly wiped their cloths across the reinforced glass. That’s not a job for someone who doesn’t like heights. It confirmed my earlier assertion that I’m better in the water than I would be in the sky.

I can’t think of any songs about swimming, so in my mind I’ve been sifting through the many songs I know about boats. Although being terrified and getting soaked and frozen to the bone may be fun, I do love lazing about with a picnic watching them elegantly glide by. So Otis Redding’s lyrics may be more in keeping. “Sitting in the morning sun, I’ll be sitting when the evening’s done. Watching the ships roll in, then I’ll watch ‘em roll away again.”  And at least if I fall off the dock, I will be able to backstroke smoothly to shore.

I don’t know if my swimming teacher is on LinkedIn, but his website is full of excellent testimonials.  I’ve worked with so many people who are reluctant, scared or shy to ask for a testimonial, but it’s so incredibly important in these days of customers’ preoccupation with online reviews. If you’d like a ten minute chat to boost your confidence with regard to LinkedIn testimonials, give me a call on 020 8551 7077, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Succeeding in business, being accountable and taking my hand

I don’t make new year’s resolutions.  Well I sort-of do, but I don’t tell people. That way, when I don’t stick to them there’s no one to make me feel guilty.  Apart from me, and I expect it of myself, so I just shrug and say, Oh well, shouldn’t have set myself up to fail. Except that no one likes failure, which is why I think it’s best to avoid them in the first place.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIn business, we can’t fail; it’s as simple as that. To succeed, we need to set strategic business goals and follow a clear growth plan.  New year resolutions for business… Yeah, yeah, I say that every year, then ignore my own time management advice and go through the first six months being distracted by art galleries, lunches in London and the theatre. I then spend the next three months telling myself that one of the advantages of being Jewish is celebrating a new year in September, and therefore a second crack at the resolutions whip. The final three months fly by in a whirl of Christmas plans, with the happy knowledge of another new year on the horizon and that’s the time for resolutions!

I say this light-heartedly, of course. I wouldn’t have been in business for 20 years if that really was my attitude, although I do admit to needing reigning in every now and then. I’m doing that now.

Becoming VAT registered this month means that I must must must keep a tighter control on my accounts: retaining receipts, recording on-line business expenditure and invoicing on time. It’s boring, I don’t like it.  Fortunately Kirsty, the lovely VAT lady at my accountants, will do most of the dreary stuff, but I know I have to keep up my end.

And that’s the thing with resolutions: accountability.  With my VAT, I’ll be accountable to Kirsty and the tax office.  With my social media management clients, I’m obviously accountable to them – and they come first, every time.  But for everything else, I’m accountable to me and that’s not ideal. So now I’ll be accountable to you.

Here we go… my business plans for this year are to publish some books (Jo has already formatted them), update my website and organise some open social media training workshops in London. There’s a great café in Shoreditch where we had brunch on new year’s day, and it has a private room downstairs that will be perfect for a few hours of social media marketing and LinkedIn secrets. Let me know if you’re interested in coming along and I’ll sort out some dates for the spring.

If you don’t have a good solid overall plan for your business, at least make sure the social media is well organised. I’ll be happy to help if you need any guidance – that’s one area I make sure I’m on top of at all times.

And on a personal level… the obligatory post-Christmas diet? I had planned that, but I try to eat healthily all the time and I take my vitamins when I remember. I have no intention of abandoning my chocolate collection, so I’ll just stick to avoiding bread and gluten, and aim to eat more fruit. How’s that? I will walk for thirty minutes each day and cycle on the exercise bike at least three times a week. Just writing that has made me feel pleased with myself, so mission accomplished. I’ll never double book on Wednesday nights when I have my life drawing class and I’ll write more poetry for the upcoming exhibitions in which I’ve been invited to show my work. Plans, plans, plans…

Trying to think of a song about plans, this was the first (and only) thing that popped into my head! “We’re only making plans for Nigel; we only want what’s best for him. We’re only making plans for Nigel – Nigel just needs this helping hand.” I don’t know many Nigels, but I do know about social media planning. If you’d like a helping hand, feel free to take mine.  Give me a call – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch. Wishing you a happy, healthy, successful and brilliant 2017!! X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to Roy Strutt for the lovely photos.)

Historic love affairs, your free gift and making up words

Last Thursday I attended a networking evening at the City Business Library in Guildhall, a venue where I’ve run social media training sessions in the past. Those workshops were great and I made some brilliant contacts, but the networking evenings have canapés and wine…  It was good fun!

My friend Mark was one of the keynote speakers and he praised me to the room, which was very nice of him.  He also drove me home after my glass of Rioja, and made me laugh so much I got hiccups; very elegant for a woman of my age….

Mark runs a business hub in Southend where SMEs in Essex can meet, learn and develop their businesses under his helpful hand.  It seems that when he’s not working, he is busy making up words!  His latest was oddinator and, while it may not have been added to the Cambridge Dictionary yet, I have found myself using it this weekend!

Another speaker was a fab lady who had also worked at Redbridge Council back in the day.  Julie launched Too Fat to Run, a fat girl’s guide to running, after taking on the challenge of her first marathon a few years ago.  She has since appeared on various daytime TV shows and in a whole host of magazines, encouraging larger ladies to get off their bums and have fun in a pair of trainers.  I don’t run.  I found Julie extremely inspirational nonetheless, as she chatted about building her empire through social media, and her global running ‘meet-ups’ where women take part in countries all around the world.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe evening was organised by ELBP, for whom I have run many social media training workshops.  During one session a couple of years ago I met Dr Maria Zoutsou , a wonderful therapist who helps people to banish stress and achieve optimal well-being.  Maria booked me for a one-to-one session to go through marketing techniques and learn to use LinkedIn effectively, as well as talking about ways to grow her business.  So I’m very pleased to be able to share her brand new ebook with you!  Maria is kindly allowing you to download it as a free gift, right here!  (Thank you for sharing this, Maria.)

Pre-social media and on-line blogging, people’s diaries kept a running commentary of their lives, recorded for posterity and usually discarded.  Samuel Pepys kept one of the UK’s most celebrated diaries, surviving over 350 years and chronicling major London events such as the bubonic plague and the Great Fire of London, along with a personal recount of his many love affairs!  An exhibition of his life and work is just about to close at the Greenwich Museum, but Karen and I stumbled upon it on Good Friday while we were looking for a cake shop.

I hadn’t realised Pepys only wrote his diary for nine years – if I follow in his cream ribboned satin Stuart shoes I’m half way there!  Debate rages about whether he intended the diary to become public, as much of the original text is written in shorthand and code.  It took a Victorian scholar three years to decipher the diary, only to discover at the end that the key to the code was right there on the bookshelf above his head!  I bet he wasn’t laughing to the point of hiccups!

I don’t code anything I write. It’s all set out in plain English.  I do make up words though, and having a masters degree in linguistics, I’m rarely challenged – a bit like Gary Kemp:  ‘Reasons reasons were here from the start; it’s my instinction, it’s my instinction. Reasons reasons were part of the art; it’s my instinction, it’s my instinction.  Stealing cake to eat the moon.’ (I love the last line.)

If you fancy getting together to make up words, or edit complex stuff into plain English, ask me about it 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.

A Dr Martens orgy, de-jargoning & carols with Charlie Chaplin – almost!

If you’ve never been to the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn, you have to put it on your list for 2016.  It’s one of London’s most fantastic hidden gems.  The internal architecture reflects the extraordinary imagination of the creator of some of our greatest landmarks – including the houses of parliament, where I will be dining in the new year.  The collection is an eclectic mix dating back to ancient Greece that immerses you the minute you enter this magical world through the fairly ordinary looking front door.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingA wonderful man, who was not a tour guide but shared with us a small fraction of his incredible insight, confirmed that my Dr Martens are adorned with Hogarth’s famous painting of ‘The Orgy,’  one of eight pieces that make up A Rake’s Progress.  This artwork depicts a night at a Covent Garden inn – not necessarily one that I have been to though.  The paintings in this fabulous museum are displayed in a small room using a moveable-wall system that still seems innovative today, yet was designed and constructed over 200 years ago.  Hogarth’s works are displayed alongside, in front of and behind other great artists, including some lovely pieces by Canaletto.

I didn’t even know the Hogarth collection was here until Philip mentioned it on viewing my lovely shoes.  (Not everyone thinks they’re lovely…)  The museum is actually Sir John Soane’s home, perfectly preserved with its original furnishings, books, monk’s parlour and crypt.  (What do you mean you don’t have those in your home? Think how beautifully you could deck out your monk’s parlour with baubles and boughs of holly.  Or mistletoe…)

xmas 2015

This will be my last blog of the year – and what a year it’s been!  Having spent the first half mostly in Travelodges, it will be lovely next week to be pampered in five star luxury somewhere between the Cotswolds and Bath, where I shall end 2015 in a dry flotation tank, whatever that is…

Plain English business writing training dominated the first few months, and travelling around the country delivering sessions on de-jargoning was lots of fun.  I have met some exceptional people this year and been introduced to places I’d never have come across without my national training contracts.  I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know so many through networking – both in real life and via social media.

The last few months have been equally dominated by one topic – although less work-related and more chocolate-related.  Whilst I can’t yet claim to be an expert on all things cocoa-based, I’m surely getting there.  You can be sure the Wii Fit will be brought out of semi-retirement after the festive season wanes.

Anyway, while it’s still very much the season to be jolly, I’m off to a carol concert, held in the entrance hall to a grand old mansion once visited by Charlie Chaplin.   It has a huge, twinkling Christmas tree and the local church choir will sing on the curving staircase while I hand around my home-made cranberry and cinnamon muffins.

So it’s time to say bye for this year – and thank you!!  It’s a pleasure to write for you – and I’m truly grateful that you take the time to read this blog each week. Thank you for reading, sharing and laughing.  Have a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, successful 2016!!

The chocolate train, a passionate dance and the LinkedIn man on the street

Switzerland.  Wow!!  Gill and I spent four days on the edge of Lake Geneva and absolutely fell in love with everything: the atmosphere, the mountains, the architecture, the food, the man on the street… (Not every man, just one in particular.)

studioBeginning in Montreux, we headed straight for the tour of Mountain Studios.  Queen owned this, their recording home until 1996, and their last seven albums were recorded here.  With a plethora of memorabilia and the original studio almost intact, it’s a must for any hard-core Queen fans. We saw them live in Marbella in 1986, so we count!  The studio exhibition is free, with a donation to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.

The main reason for our holiday was a trip on The Chocolate Train.  Can’t tell you the number of people who thought we meant a train made of chocolate… as great as that would be, the early winter sun was beating down and the heat of our thighs on praline seats just wouldn’t be pretty.

We boarded the vintage train in Montreux12107996_10153734076151255_3336874778334004252_n and climbed for 90 minutes through thickly forested mountains, being fed a constant stream of chocolately goodies.  The tour began at Maison Cailler in Broc, the true home of Swiss chocolate.  After a Disneyesque journey through its history, learning about how this food of the devil leads men to do bad things to giggling ladies, we ended up in a tasting room with an unlimited supply to sample.  Delicious.  Fantastic.  Nauseous.

We travelled on to Gruyere, a gorgeous medieval village with an imposing castle, where we ate a traditional Gruyere fondue in the sunshine.  As if one dish of melted cheese wasn’t enough, we also managed to put away raclette, tartiflette and a pack of free Gruyere in three matured states, a gift from the cheese factory.  (Not all at one sitting.)

A night at the casino produced an extra 200 Swiss Francs to spend on more chocolate before we headed back to Geneva for a couple of days of culture.  What a gorgeous city.  Hilly though, but the little Petite-Train took out some of the hard slog of traipsing upward to the cathedral at the apex.  I’m always happy in a cathedral, and this one had the added benefit of an archaeological exhibition deep underground.  Gill was less pleased about that than I was.

unFrom Roman rocks to 21st century politics, our tour of United Nations was inspirational, educating and awesome.  We’re both ready to change the world now.  (Just need to finish this stash of Swiss chocolate first…)

The aforementioned man in the street was called Michael. I asked him, in a schoolgirl dialect of French that seemed perfectly acceptable to me but was probably shocking to him, for directions to a cashpoint.  You’d think in a city of banks that there would be a proliferation of them, but no.  Michael replied in perfect east-coast American English then proceeded to take us for a tour of the old city in search of an ATM.

Although he lives in Geneva, he’s starting a business here in the UK – something to do with accounting and property consulting. Interesting… I do social media consulting for accounting and property firms.  A fortuitous meeting…  Street networking… Helpful, friendly, seemingly successful, very cute and no wedding ring…  I quickly handed over my business card and ran a LinkedIn search.  Well, who wouldn’t…?!

Back in London and continuing the theme of upping my cultural presence, I attended the ballet on Saturday afternoon.  I’d never actually seen the inside of the glorious Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, although I have popped in several times before to use the loo.

It was amazing; its contemporary production of Carmen is passionate, erotic and spell-binding.  I loved it!!  I did notice a degree of sex discrimination though. Whilst I appreciate the conventions of ballet, why does the prima ballerina receive flowers, but nothing for the leading man?  Surely someone should give him something?  I’ll volunteer.  I definitely wouldn’t mind giving him something…

This has been my favourite Queen song for as long as I can remember, but it’s the one I’d have chosen today anyway.  “I’ve been with you such a long time, you’re my sunshine and I want you to know that my feelings are true, I really love you.  You’re my best friend.”

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I’m back in London for a while now, but wherever I am in the world I’m always here: @WeekendWitch.