Renee

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.

Chocolate investment, Business Junction and a stand-up comedian

My friends started a business from scratch a couple of years ago and it’s grown exceptionally well. You have heard me raving about their products – delicious, luxurious, decadent chocolates! I know a lot about chocolate, as you may have gathered – and I can tell you with full conviction, these are amazing.

Kennard’s Artisan Chocolates have won four industry awards in the past year alone: two for their triple Espresso Capsule, one for the Peanut Butter Truffle and another for their Spiced Fruit Cup. They have a range of Vegan and Kosher products, dairy-free, gluten-free, guilt-free… You’re really missing out if you haven’t tried try them. And you can – and with a discount! Because now my lovely friends are giving you the opportunity to become a stakeholder in their business.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThey’re offering three ways for people to invest. I have donated an amount via their crowdfunding page which means I’ll be delivered copious amounts of chocolate brought to me by my smiling postman. (Postwoman actually). You can also invest in the business to become a shareholder – for savvy people seeking a fast-growing enterprise in which to capitalise, this is wonderful opportunity. There’s a charity-focused option too, so take a peek at the full offering and enjoy yourself while your finances grow along with your waistline.

Thanks to the freebies they give me, and my usual cake-coated diet, it looks like my exercise bike will be getting a few more miles on the clock. Luckily for me I have some new special magic bike knickers. They have a rubbery padded bottom, a bit similar to the one I’m heading for at this rate. (No, there’s no photo of my magic knickers.)

I’ve kept up my swimming; that helps to balance the chocolate cravings. My physio agrees it’s good for my balance, and my swimming teacher, David, waivers between telling me I’m doing great (very nice for my self-esteem) and I’m rubbish (makes me laugh, so good for my overall well-being).

20663998_10155649375991255_1251140908236944038_n (1)Another reason to laugh this week was a trip to Arch 1’s comedy club to see my friend David from art class – a different David – performing his stand-up comedy routine.  It was such a funny night. He’s recently jumped on board the stand-up circuit so I expect to be seeing a lot more of him. I’ve seen a lot of him previously, in art class, this is a different seeing him. He’s really good, so if you fancy a fun night out in London you should join me sometime.

I did do a bit of work this week too… It’s not all wine, canapés and chocolate you know. I went to a Business Junction networking lunch. It was all wine and canapés (see – no chocolate!) and meeting new people of course. As well as the usual collection of accountants, IT consultants and designers, there was a very interesting guy who provides business advice based on the law of attraction. He called me afterwards and we may be working together in a few weeks once his business is ready for full marketing. I love all that.  Mark first recommended Esther and Jerry Hicks’ book in 2012 and it’s been sitting on my desk, dipped into and chocolate dripped on it for five years. We can change our worlds. And as we’re pretty much the only ones who can, we’d better get on with it.

Emeli Sandé says, “I’d be smiling if I wasn’t so desperate. I’d be patient if I had the time. I could stop and answer all of your questions, as soon as I find out how I can move from the back of the line.”

If you’re desperate about moving your business forward in line, give me a call. If you can’t find time for social media I can handle it for you – and if you generally want more time I can help you with that too. Check out my time management training and you’ll soon be smiling again. And if you know any good jokes that could give David a run for his money, tell me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being homeless, being creative, being lost for words

The Girl from the North Country is a play at the Old Vic by Conor McPherson, set in 1930’s America during the depression and featuring a Bob Dylan playlist. Shirley Henderson stars, playing a woman with dementia, inhibition-free, dancing inappropriately. I’ve watched this actress in many things from Bridget Jones to Harry Potter, but nothing prepared me for the strength of her powerful voice belting out the classic Like a Rolling Stone. She was a giant on stage. We saw her leaving the theatre while we waited for a cab, a tiny figure in a black hoodie, unobtrusive in the London night-time drizzle, polar opposite of the colourful character she played on the stage. Pure, unadulterated talent. This play thoroughly deserves its five star reviews!

It was a week of talent, beginning with a night at the London Palladium with Art Garfunkel. I’ve loved Simon and Garfunkel since I was a child.  I have their albums, I know their words, I have a book with their guitar chords, ‘borrowed’ from Mark during the last century, that I’ve been learning for, oh, only around 30 years. How on earth am I going to choose lyrics to end this blog?  It should probably be Bridge over troubled waters, as my dad sang that to me – and this week marked 25 years since he left this world – but Dylan is playing through my mind this morning.

The lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone are hard and jolting, confrontational. I’d never listened properly to the verses before but the song’s about a homeless woman who’s fallen from a life of grace.  I wonder who inspired it. I recently gave a homeless girl money for a night’s shelter in a hostel. She started telling me her story but I was late for a meeting and only spent a couple of minutes walking with her. I felt guilty later that day when I spent a small fortune on a new dress, an impulse buy, the cost of which could have given her a fortnight’s stay in the hostel.

I’m often cynical about homelessness and prefer to buy someone a sandwich than give them money in case it’s wasted on drugs or gambling. But who am I to judge? It constantly bemuses me that homelessness can even be an issue still in this day and age, in a relatively prosperous society. Sometimes I’m simply lost for words.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn a lighter note – but somewhat related as it involves a bunch of people losing their home at short notice – this week was our last art class for a while. Ed and his housemates have been evicted from the quirky property that we all called our home on Wednesday evenings, but which was really his home. The spacious room above a pub was filled with fairy lights, vintage furniture, objet d’art and, for some time, a sex swing… It was interesting, it was fun and, for me, it was a very convenient 15-minute drive door-to-door.  If you know of any premises in east London that could house a weekly group of around 30 artists – some aspiring, some professional and most just incredibly awesome, please let me know. Likewise, if you know of premises where they could actually live, that would be useful too.

In the meantime my creative outlet will have to be filled by writing poetry again. I haven’t written anything for a while but I’ll be exhibiting this autumn as part of an art show to celebrate the life of Anne Frank and raise awareness of persecution and discrimination worldwide. So I’d better dust off my poetry hat and get writing.

Good grief – Bridge over troubled water is also about someone becoming homeless! This seems to be a theme for starting the week. I’ll be leaving my nice, warm home shortly for a networking lunch at Chancery Lane – I’ll take a packed lunch with me today to give to the homeless guy who shelters in the subway at Gants Hill station. It’s not much, but it’s going to be on my mind otherwise.

Art Garfunkel said, ‘Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine if you need a friend… I’m sailing right behind.’ That’s more positive anyway. I’m behind – or in front. Or here, at your fingertips: @WeekendWitch.

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.

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!

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.

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.