Renee

Parisian knicker-checkers, a dramatic first night and a very impressive man

Paris in the springtime may be the traditional time to visit, but it’s a spectacular city anytime of the year.  My cousin Stephen had flown over from Vegas for a couple of weeks so we sneaked an overnight trip to the city of love, light, culture and delicious buttery, almondy, gooey chocolate pastries.

We weren’t surprised that security was high. However, the phrase ‘above and beyond’ came to mind.  We were stunned at the extent they went to checking our bags at the Arc de Triumph. The girl removed almost everything from each of our backpacks – including yesterday’s knickers and Stephen’s old pants. Everything was plonked into a plastic box for all to see. It was quite incredible really – nothing was spared.  Should people be allowed to wave our pants in their faces in the name of security?  My lacy knicks certainly didn’t have anywhere to smuggle even a penknife… (Also shocked at how many people were carrying those!)

Being an overnight stay, my bag contained a gas-fuelled curling brush that could understandably have been misidentified as a best-selling item from Ann Summers. Out it came; the mademoiselle picked it up and waved it around curiously as she scrutinised it before moving on to my make-up bag. But the thing that shocked us the most: she wasn’t wearing gloves. This girl was rummaging through people’s personal items with her bare hands. As Stephen pointed out, someone could have had a needle in their bag – or goodness knows what else. What a horrible breach of health and safety!

The Eiffel Tower was less vigilant – but still thorough – and plastic glove-wearing!  The Louvre gave a cursory flick of the zip and waved us through; Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur were more interested in Stephen removing his hat than in a full bag search.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training Our whirlwind tour took in all these tourist attractions, and more; I’m a very good tour guide, even if I do say so myself. I’ve managed to pick up enough trivia on my previous trips to marginally impress an American. While I was in charge of museums, galleries, cathedrals and high-in-the-sky landmarks, Stephen was responsible for food places – typical French cuisine, of course, with lots of melting cheese, cured ham, locally sourced paté and bread. Lots and lots of bread. (For him, not me. I was happy with a diet of chocolate croissants and chocolate mousse.)  And red wine, it’s healthy.

I returned from Paris to attend a first night play. And when I say first night, I really do mean that. The cast were delivering their first run-through, scripts in hand and without dramatic lighting or scenery.  It was the compelling story of journalist Christopher Gunness’ visit to Yangon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the so-called Students’ Democratic Revolution. As a young journalist he’d reported on the 1988 events, and the story switched seamlessly between periods.

The company was made up of a small group of illustrious actors, with the writer and director, Guy Slater, a well-known celebrity in his own right. But the unobtrusive star of the evening was Chris Gunness himself, a man whose CV lists exceptionally high-profile roles within the UN and middle east – and now a chief spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. He is such a nice guy. Meeting him in the cultural ensconces of The Cockpit, a fringe theatre on the edge of Marylebone, you’d never guess for one second that he’s reported from war zones with bombs literally flying around him. He’s one of the unsung heroes, finally with his own tune and lyrics. (That’s metaphorical, by the way; Eastern Star is poles apart from any musical.)

The performance was a benefit event for the educational charity ‘Prospect Burma’ and the ‘Britain-Burma Society.’ Guy Slater spoke at the end, requesting funding to enable the play to gain traction in a wider theatrical sphere.  My fingers are crossed that they achieve their goals of both creating a fuller production and supporting the relevant charities.

As John and Paul reiterated way back when, words that were equally as relevant then, in 1988 and again today: “You say you want a revolution; well, you know, we all want to change the world. You tell me that it’s evolution; well, you know, we all want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction – don’t you know that you can count me out.”

Social media is certainly instrumental in changing the world. If you’re using it for business, make sure you’re using it right. If you need advice, give me a quick call, drop me an email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

 

(Lyrics credit: Lennon and McCartney – but you knew that!)

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.

Managing time, feeling creative and a stream of lucky escapes

There but for the grace of God go I. I don’t know who said it, and I’m not particularly religious, but I think it whenever my safety and well-being have been compromised but the danger’s passed.

I have a habit of narrowly missing disasters. (Or should I say, I have the good luck to narrowly avoid them?)

Kings Cross. The fire that was kindling as I rode through the station before the deadly flames engulfed the tragic victims. The Libyan Embassy siege. I walked passed just a couple of hours before PC Yvonne Fletcher was gunned down in broad daylight. I don’t remember now what I was even doing there, but I know I was wearing orange shoes. Pumps. Grosgrain – I’d bought them in Top Shop along with a matching jumper and some kind of weird fishnet scarf.  I was carrying one of those orange plastic basket bags that we all thought were marvellous back then.

There was no social media in those days, nowhere to tell people we were safe or let our loved ones know en masse that we were okay. All night tv was still in its infancy, only broadcasting for about a year in London – although we had that strange robotic teletext thing that was so futuristic. Whichever was you look at it, it was hard to keep up-to-date. There wasn’t even a facility for us to call friends we were worried about; we relied on them finding a public call box to ring home. It seems prehistoric now.  I didn’t even know about the fire until I got back around midnight and my mum was frantic with worry.

7/7 was a close call too. I’d overslept that morning. My mum phoned to tell me the central line was down and I realised I wouldn’t get to my appointment in Holborn on time. And then of course the catastrophic events unfolded on the news. I’d have been in the vicinity at the time of the bomb blast if my alarm had gone off. Again, there but for the grace of God go I.

21360829_10155724413861255_959159822_nAnd now this, a silver arrow shooting out in front of me. Well, not exactly in front of me – I didn’t actually see it. But I was hustled down two flights of stairs at the Oval into an enclosed room along with the other 450 people who were enjoying the networking event, most of us not paying attention to the cricket. Suddenly the sunny terrace, high above the famous pitch where we’d been happily sipping Pimms, was threatened by a security alert. No one knew what was happening. Everyone remained calm, everyone walked nicely, many people looked panic-stricken.  There were mumblings of terrorism. Surely a cricket match isn’t a good target? Or is it? Isn’t anywhere?

When the police evacuated the stadium I walked as quickly as my steadily blistering feet would carry me back to the relative safety of the tube. Rush hour on the Northern Line is quite unpleasant, but two people recognised me as having been at the event and we had a lovely chat, exchanging business cards between the legs of the commuters who weren’t lucky or quick enough to grab seats. I think they recognised me because of my dress, black with a vivid red rose print plonked across the fabric. It struck me that I looked a bit like a walking target, if the archer had taken to the streets with his weapon.

After the stress of that palaver I feel like I should avoid London for a while.  (Until tomorrow, at least!) I should stick to country events; for example, at the opposite end of the spectrum to the sweltering nightmare of the underground, last week’s ceramics fair at Hatfield House was a dream.

21360936_10155724409741255_412055550_nArt in Clay is one of the country’s foremost exhibitions of all things pottery.  Philip’s mum is a potter by trade – I have a lovely collection of vases, fruit bowls and sweetie dishes that she’s kindly gifted to me – so it was great to wander around with someone so knowledgeable and interested in the vast and eclectic collection of products on display. Philip bought a vase – tall, cream, elegant, beautifully curved with a grey squiggly bit at the bottom and a curlicue lip.  I have no idea if that’s a correct ceramicists’ term – I think I may have just made it up.  And if he skims through this blog he’ll probably be thinking I’m describing his ideal woman rather than a vase!

Watching the potters as they demonstrated throwing their clay made me feel (again!) that I want to do something creative.  Fortunately art class has resumed, in a new, Hitchcock-themed venue; still with fairy lights and bananas; still wonderfully calming and focused. Still great fun.  But I want to also do some painting, or even try some of that blobbing about with clay. (Again, probably not the right term…) I haven’t felt inspired to write poetry for a while, although I feel a wave coming on.

21361264_10155724413011255_595205071_nStaying on the pottery theme, I first saw this film in Bermuda in 1991 – and, although the lyrics date back to the year I was born, this song will be forever framed within the confines of white sandy beaches and a turquoise sea. “Time goes slowly by, and time can do so much.”

Time might go slowly by when you’re in love with Sam Wheat, but in business it goes blimmin’ fast.  So I’m offering time management workshops this autumn to set you up for an effectively-managed start to 2018. Call me if you’d like to know more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Giacometti, calm waters and a bicycle made for two

There are few things lovelier on a gloriously warm day than creating a cool breeze by cycling leisurely through the countryside. It’s even better with the beautiful sparkling waters of Rutland on your left. One thing I do think is lovelier is not having to work your thigh muscles and burn your calves – a usual side effect of the cycling culture.  However, I have found the solution!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingPhilip suggested touring around the edge of the lake… on a tandem! It’s great fun. He was awesome, pecs rippling as he worked so hard to masterfully control the huge contraption. He took us riding through shady glens and across grassy spaces full of picnickers and small children – whose parents seemed to think it was cute to allow their offspring to toddle dangerously into the path of oncoming bikes and skateboards. Climbing the steeper hills, Philip even stood up to peddle – very impressive, which I assumed was the reason for the playful display.  Turns out it’s the only way to get up the hill if the person behind is sitting there enjoying the ride instead of actually pedaling…

He told me that now I have mastered staying on the seat, the next step will be to learn how to move my feet.  We’ll see.

We’d intended to spend the day sailing, but a calm water meant the sails wouldn’t be very effective, so we abandoned that idea in favour of the tandem. It made me think of my nana singing Daisy Daisy when I was very young – and now that I’ve typed that it’s going round and round in my head again. (And for some reason, so is the rude version.) In truth, I did contribute significantly to the pedalling and part of my body that shall remain unmentionable in this ladylike blog is still sore – so I guess it’s appropriate to still be singing a cycling song three days after the event.  Annoyingly, I didn’t have my recently-purchased magic cycling knickers with me, which was a huge shame.

Rutland Water is so clear and blue, it’s almost a picture book lake. In contrast, the Thames is a dismal grey colour. Far less pretty but still attractive as it snakes its way through the best city in the world. Have you seen the Giacometti exhibition at the Tate Modern? I hadn’t really fancied going, but Martyn wanted to go, and I was tempted by the thought of a cake on the members’ balcony overlooking the aforementioned watery artery of my home town.

It was all the more enjoyable because I wasn’t bothered about Giacometti so hadn’t thought about what to expect. I went with an open mind and returned blown away by the diversity of this Swiss artist’s work. Sculptures towering over me at around 10ft were displayed alongside teeny tiny bronze sculptures smaller than my thumbnail.  Really!  It’s all quite fascinating.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut more worthy of a visit is the new exhibition in a large hall at the other end of the concourse: Soul of a Nation: art in the age of black power. This incredible collection of work celebrates black American artists from 1963-83, during the turbulent days of political and social change, following on a huge surfing wave from the impact of the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the things I love about my art gallery memberships is being introduced to artists I’d never heard of before. There were loads here, and their individual artworks, while obviously socially and culturally important – both historically as well as maintaining a global relevance today – are masterpieces in their own right. I’ve never seen such a long queue at the Tate – or certainly not noticed one before – even for the Hockney show.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThis is a popular exhibition, and rightly so. It actually inspired me to do something more creative at my life drawing class this week. But sadly, I forgot. Stuck to a 3B pencil and my trusted purple and turquoise felt tips. Oh well. My own artistic revolution is clearly still to come. Something to look forward to, I guess.

As Freddie said, “I don’t believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman; all I wanna do is…” You can fill in the blank yourself.

If you need help to fill in any business blanks – particularly social media-related, drop me an email – or ask me here:@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.

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.