Renee

Exhibitionism, ageless misbehaviour and my first studio TV appearance

What an amazing afternoon I spent with Martyn the Artist at the brilliantly presented Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones! Without doubt the best exhibition I’ve seen since Bowie at the V&A.  Also the most expensive – possibly Mick Jagger’s economics background coming into play.  The Saatchi gallery is usually free, so I assume it’s the band making the money? Anyway, so worth it…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt turns out that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, childhood friends who’d lost touch, bumped into each other at Dartford train station, each carrying LPs of blues bands.  What a serendipitous day in music history that turned out to be.  Coincidence? Fate?  Of course it would be all so different today with school friends keeping in touch on social media.  Facebook highlights everyone’s musical tastes, fashion disasters and likes/dislikes, so it’s easy to find things in common with potential multi-million-pound-rockstar-partners.

Exhibitionism showcases not only the band’s talent, but their lifestyle over the past five and a half decades. Their logo pretty much sums it up: the sticking out tongue – an image representing ageless misbehaviour, childish anarchy and sexual decadence of a group of slowly aging men.  Martyn told me an interesting story about this branding; the intellectual property rights for the tongue still belong to the designer. He retained ownership apparently, and earns a nice little pot from the famous psychedelic lips.  A good day’s work, eh?

Aside from the music itself – soundbites, sound installations and handwritten, scribbled lyrics – the Saatchi Gallery displays their fantastically flamboyant fashions, set design, album cover artwork and videos in an encompassing microcosm of British pop. And it’s rude.  Videos of naked girls falling about drunkenly on tour buses. Like the band, these women are probably also grandparents now; it made us laugh.

In the eighties, Gill’s company were doing the PR for the Stones’ film ‘Let’s spend the night together.’  She brought home a huge bagful of badges with those words, and we traipsed around pubs and clubs throughout London distributing them to boys we fancied!  (Don’t do that now…)

The exhibition ended with a 3D concert: what a fabulous way to close the show! So my afternoon ended in a studio – strange, as it had started in one too…

Dr Anne Gordon and I were interviewed live on breakfast TV to talk about childhood stroke.  I tweeted a photo from the Green Room!  We both felt terribly important sitting in there, waiting patiently for the floor manager to organise us. When she came, a pretty young lady called Jennifer, we thought she was taking us into hair and make-up.  How funny – we were so wrong!  Three steps through the busy office and we were in the actual studio, sitting behind a desk waiting for Luke Blackall, the show’s charismatic presenter.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnne is extremely eloquent, and described her work with the survivors of childhood stroke. I spoke briefly about my experience – seven years to the day of Oli being admitted into the Royal London Hospital.  As I said on TV, it’s a shock that hits so hard it’s very difficult to move on. But move forward we do.

This weekend I facilitated a support day in London for families of childhood stroke survivors, where four medical experts gave presentations and the parents who attended could see that they’re not alone.  It was a Stroke Association event, and donations and support from the public made it possible. Thanks to the team, and also to KAO for donating their lovely office space for the day.

Aside from the fun of this week, it’s been emotionally draining for me, but music usually cheers me up.  My enduring memory of Mick Jagger is the night of Live Aid, where he danced around in a green silk shirt with David Bowie, just two friends having fun in the wasteland that is now Docklands. “It doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there. So come on, every guy, grab a girl, everywhere around the world…”

There might not always be swinging, swaying and records playing, but there’s always social media.  If you need help with yours, call me – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Saving a prayer, naming and shaming and a new cinema experience

I didn’t see Duran Duran live in the eighties, and can’t for the life of me think why.  We saw The Thompson Twins at least three times, Simply Red, Madonna, Queen, UB40 – all the major music players of the decade, but not Birmingham’s finest.  So it was a treat to catch them live at the O2 last week; still fabulous, if a little less boyband and a tad more ‘trendy dad.’

They’ve kept the boyish charm though, although I think I’d pass on the opportunity to smother my bedroom wall with images of John Taylor in his trademark fedora.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI hadn’t realised until that night that Eagles of Death Metal’s cover of Save a Prayer is the official song of the Paris appeal.  How amazing to see a sea of 40,000 waving lights filling the arena in memory of the tragic victims of the atrocity.  (Sign of the times – we used to wave lighters in the 80s, now it’s mobile phone torches!)

This has been a busy week for eating again, with lovely meals at Sheesh, Smiths of Wapping and retro TGIs, various cakes in trendy cafés and corporate events with wine.  I did my stuff on Thursday for a venue hire organisation in Cheapside (where they kindly gave me a client goody bag that included a mince pie to munch on the train home).

They provided a wonderful buffet which I mostly kept away from, due to anticipation of a networking event in the evening.  However, the Christmas networking provided – you won’t believe this – NO FOOD!  I’m not naming and shaming as I’m a fully paid up member, but I only stayed an hour then left, a slave to my hunger pangs.  Luckily I had the mince pie in my bag…

I used my time there to chat to a couple of business friends, then bumped in to someone I have tweeted with for a couple of years on behalf of one of my social media management clients.  We’d never met before, but we have now – and I’m organising a meeting between him and my accountant clients for the new year.  It’s all about building relationships, right?

Thanks to Mark and the team at Nordens for inviting me to the firm’s end of year party on Friday.  Fab evening, as always – with (again!) great food, wonderful company and lots of fun.  Congrats to the members of staff who won prizes in the company’s annual awards – which included prizes for digging your own grave, going the extra mile for clients and being a diva.  Very funny and entertaining.

Another meal that was entertaining and generally outstanding was Saturday night’s dinner at the Lounge Cinema in Whiteleys at Queensway.  This was a whole new experience for me! We shared a platter of sushi, duck spring rolls, burgers, lamb things on sticks, dips and the best chips ever.  Too full up to move we lay back in our reclining leather seats and summonsed the waiter using the call button, just like on a plane.  Ten minutes later he reappeared with a glass of rosé and a caramelised banana split that defies imagination.  Smothered in whipped cream and chocolate ice cream, with an array of fruits and drizzled in mango sauce, this was a visual treat that beat the film itself.  Apologies to Tom Hanks, but honestly – the dessert and the ambience makes it a place to spend a Saturday night, for sure!

I’m not sure what the Save a Prayer royalty money’s being used for in Paris; Simon le Bon was a bit vague at that point and maybe a decision hasn’t yet been made.  But anyway, ‘Feel the breeze deep on the inside, look you down into your well.  If you can, you’ll see the world in all his fire.  Take a chance like all dreamers, can’t find another way.  You don’t have to dream it all, just live a day.’

There’s always another way.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it… Follow your dreams.  Maybe also follow me… @WeekendWitch.

New musical hero, being cut-throat and fifty shades of silver

It’s been a very musical week.  Martyn the Artist and I battled the storm to get to Somerset House for The Jam exhibition: About the young idea.  Now, I wasn’t a Jam fan when they were originally cool.  I liked a few of their songs at the time – mainly the more commercial stuff like Bitterest Pill and English Rose.  I joined in a lot of the anarchic-type conversations at college and discussed politics and youth’s disenchantment with the state of the country, government, nuclear disarmament – but it was much in the Young One’s vein, repeating things Rik Mayall had quoted.

A main reason I didn’t buy The Jam’s albums was how they looked.  I didn’t find their angular faces and sharp haircuts attractive.  Ben accuses me of being musically-shallow in this respect – and he’s right, I suppose. At that time I was dancing around my bedroom to Wham! with their bright-teeth, floppy-haired Hawaiian shorts videos and wearing my distressed leather boots and a rah-rah skirt.

Now I love The Jam’s music and have a huge amount of respect for Paul Weller – in fact, he’s my new musical hero.  Martyn bought me a CD of the group’s greatest hits and I’ve been playing it all weekend.  Apart from when I’m getting ready to go out, when I’ve been playing my other new favourite old album: Tapestry.  There’s a reason for this, too.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn Thursday I went along to Beautiful, the Carole King story currently being played out in a theatre in Aldwych, thinking I’d know three songs.  As it turned out, I knew all of them – and more! I had no idea she was such a prolific songwriter.  Songs I’ve sung – quietly, muttered under my breath or shrieked loudly to other people’s discontent – are credited to her and her ex-husband’s lyrical talents.  She wrote for the Drifters, the Monkees, Aretha Franklin and a whole host of musical royalty.  I barely knew her name before, and yet it turns out she dominates a good percentage of my iTunes library.

I posted on Facebook that I was at the show, and my friend Simon (with a beard) whatsapp’d to tell me that she was a nasty piece of work in real life.  I didn’t know that.  Still don’t – I’m taking his word for it though, as he’s super-clever and I guess the music business was as cut-throat in the 70s as it is today; people probably needed an edge to get on.

So it’s been a week of music and partying.  From my mum’s special birthday celebrations (and thanks to the many Facebook friends who sent birthday wishes – some who know her, some who don’t) to Jo and Lawrence’s 50 Shades of Silver wedding anniversary party.  They made the funniest spoof video of 50 Shades – very, very clever.  Hoping that will appear on Facebook today.  Jo and I started singing together when I was seven years old; while we clearly missed out on a career in music, it’s now evident that she could be the next big Hollywood star.  (Thanks for a fantastic evening J&L!)

Thanks too to David and Dawn for Kerrie’s 30th birthday barbecue last night.  I must remember to eat breakfast, chocolate, something, anything next time before Dawn puts one of her own-recipe cocktails in my hand…

So how to close…?  Jam or Ms King?  Jam or Ms King?? Jam or Ms King???  I really can’t decide.

Okay, so I have quoted Paul several times in previous blogs (but probably Carole too).  It’s pouring outside, so I’m going with this:  “Looking out on the morning rain, I used to feel so uninspired.  And when I knew I had to face another day, Lord, it made me feel so tired.  Before the day I met you, life was so unkind, but your love is the key to my peace of mind.”  If you’re looking for social media inspiration and the peace of mind that your business can have a more visible presence on-line, call me to find out how I can help you.  Or ask me here, as always: @WeekendWitch.

A recipe for social media, stardust and a lyrical Welsh witch

I’ve been working with some fantastic businesses over the past few weeks, helping them to get more out of their social media.  This week’s training combined two of my favourite things: arts and cakes!

On Tuesday, I visited Eat Work Art, a community of artists and designers housed together in a converted factory in the gentrified part of Hackney. It was such fun!!  Once I’d finished revamping Louise’s LinkedIn profile she gave me a tour of the studios.  I always love watching artists at work, and there were plenty of them in their hubs that day, sketching, painting, making wonderful creations out of tatty bits of fabric.

The conversion includes an outside market square with a few niche shops and a very cool café.  I’m happy to train my clients anywhere, but spaces that serve chai latte with raspberry and ricotta cheesecake win every time.

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

Vanilla Orchid’s gorgeous Vogue cakes

This theme of cakes cakes cakes continued into Thursday, when the owner of Vanilla Orchid Bakery arrived for her social media training with a freshly baked lemon drizzle just for me!  I’d like to ask for the recipe but it’s always so much nicer to receive as a gift.  And the same day, another client sent me a jar of Nutella – how cool is that to receive through your letterbox?!

But that evening I was sad to read that Alvin has gone to sprinkle his stardust in the heavens above; his black gloves coo-ca-chooing over the mortal world below.  (Or whatever it was that he did in the 70s).  Eating my cake with chocolate spread for dinner cheered me up though.

I grew up in a block of flats where everyone Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingknew everyone, and all the kids played in the gardens and surrounding streets until 11 o’clock each night without fear of being abducted or attacked.  Alvin Stardust’s manager lived two floors above us and, in the summer when a few of us danced and sang Leader of the Pack on a continuous loop, Alvin would come down to join us kicking the football around.  I’ve got hundreds of old photos stored in a huge trunk in my attic but I don’t think there are many from those days.  Unlike today… it’s hard to remember a world without Pinterest or Instagram.

There will be photos this week.  Yes, I’ll be around on Friday night with my witch’s hat and cauldron of spicy pumpkin soup, turning some tricks and dishing out some treats. Maybe I’ll put pics on Facebook.

You might already know that Stevie Nicks is one of my favourite artists.  I wrote about her last year.  Rumours of her links to witchcraft abound, and her beautiful lyrics are copyright of Welsh Witch Music – a company named in recognition of the lady in this song… Do you know her name?  “Would you stay if she promised you heaven?  Will you ever win?  She is like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness.  She rules her life like a fine skylark and when the sky is starless… All your life you’ve never seen, woman taken by the wind.”

Hopefully wind, rain or thunder won’t take me away on Friday; I’ll still be here: @WeekendWitch.

French bikes, French lunch, French everything

It’s been a very French week for me. Started with Monday’s faux pas when I buggered up my quarterly mail shot to 600 people by typing in the wrong code to pick up everyone’s first name.  The good news is that, when I emailed to apologise, I had my best mailshot response ever.  It’s been brilliant to reconnect with a few people I haven’t seen for ages and new lunches booked in the diary always makes me happy.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingThat email was about using the topical Tour de France as a springboard for Monday’s social media posts.  A group of us took a picnic and watched as the blink-and-you-missed-it event passed by.  As the cyclists whizzed through London on their way to the Palace there were dozens of opportunities to tweet, post and blog. Londoners also had a field day on Pinterest!

Then on Wednesday, we popped over to Paris for lunch.  One of my Facebook friends asked if I’d eloped with a Tour de France cyclist, which made me laugh.  I’d have liked a ride on the handlebars but no one stopped to pick me up!  Eurostar got me there just as efficiently; a little less environmentally friendly but a lot more comfortable than on a bike.

Paris is such a beautiful city and the Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingmorning in Montmartre was the highlight of the day.  True Parisian style: its ancient cobbled streets winding around pretty buildings adorned with flowering window boxes between paint-peeling shabby chic shutters.  That was a long sentence for a plain English writer, but hey ho!  Like the sentence, we packed a lot in.  First, the petit train took us from the Dali exhibition to Moulin Rouge, then back up the steep hill to Sacre Coeur.  Next stop was the Musée de l’Orangerie, followed by a walk in the rain through Jardin de Tullieries towards an obligatory visit to the Louvre.  You can’t visit Paris without saying bonjour to the Mona Lisa. Then a taxi ride to Notre Dame (no, I didn’t see him) followed by a boat trip to the Eiffel Tower.

Driving rain failed to dampen the day, but by the time we walked along the Champs-Elysée I had puddles in my flip flops.  So we stopped for French onion soup and French fries in a French bistro and watched the world and their brollies go by.

The French theme trickled into Thursday, with a delightful – and very English! – chocoholics afternoon tea at the Hilton in Park Lane.  Little French Fancies adorned the top tier of the cake stand.  I posted photos of those delicious chocolate creations all over social media. So, a très bonne week.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingBack to Park Lane for yesterday’s fantastic concert in Hyde Park.  Tom Jones headlining the event was always going to be amazing – and he certainly didn’t disappoint! Stef and I were right at the front, and WOW!! Has the man still got it?!!  (Yes, it was rhetorical…)  Can’t discuss the Facebook knickers conversation here as this is, after all, a professional business blog!  But, needless to say, would have to have been French knickers!!

Boyzone were also brilliant – I wasn’t a huge fan in their early days, but they put on a great show, and it was quite touching how they still include Stephen Gately in their videos and commentary.  10CC: fab as always, Little Mix: hot dancers.  Sunshine, colourful drinks, dancing, laughing – what better way to spend a Sunday?

You‘re probably expecting some TJ lyrics now, but had to end with this.  Hopefully no one will think the video is too raunchy for a Monday morning… “Paris is calling.  Falling, we’re falling, we’re falling, we’re falling.  Lips close, then blossom like a rose, embrasser c’est Francais, embrasser c’est Francais.”   Suivez-moi ici: @SorcièreDeFinDeSemaine

World Cup, filming a video and Diamond Girls

My first visit to the Hippodrome in 1987 ended with an unfortunate buffet incident, where Gill and I greedily helped ourselves before the gong announced its grand opening.  This time I was much better behaved…  My friend Robert had invited me to watch his latest music video being filmed – and it was fab!!

I met Robert on Twitter; he was tweeting about ‘I’m in the mood for dancing.’ I’m always in the mood, so I commented, we started a conversation, we moved it to Facebook, we linked-up on LinkedIn and before you could say ‘Just feel the beat babe,’ we were extremely good friends!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingRobert’s song writing credits extend far beyond The Nolans’ greatest hits.  One of his greatest accolades from 1987 was the football hit Diamond Lights – I probably danced to it that night at the Hippodrome!  Anyway, he’s revamped his retro song, renamed it (England we love you) and it’s being released this week by a gorgeous group called the Diamond Girls.  Bonita, Alex and Elouise dance in football kits and support the England Team with their red socks, flowing hair and absolutely beautiful voices.  They look like a more glamorous version of Friends’ Rachel, Monica and Phoebe and were so lovely as they repeated their routine over and over for the camera.  Then Elouise produced home-baked cookies so the day was complete!  You’ll love watching them when the video launches.

As well as supporting England in the Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingWorld Cup, the single is raising money for the Marie Curie charity, who will receive a percentage of each download.  At the forthcoming glitzy World Cup dinner, a football is being auctioned for them that’s been signed by a whole host of Robert’s artists and colleagues, including original Diamond Light stars Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle,  palm-leaf covered Sinitta, Bobby Davro. the Diamond Girls and, of course, Robert Puzey.

I won’t be at that football dinner, but I did get to enjoy the Hippodrome buffet again on Thursday.  And at the right time, this time!   As well as good sandwiches, I was majorly impressed with the ladies’ loo!  Hot pink velvet sofas and free GHD’s – I’ll be popping in there if I need to tidy up between meetings next time I spend the day in London!!

It was fantastic fun watching the creation of the video and I can’t wait to see it on YouTube and TV. The single, ‘England we love you,’ is available to download on iTunes from 1st May.

I don’t want to give away the Diamond Girl’s lyrics too early, so… Diamond Girls, Diamond Lights… let’s make it a hat trick with another old favourite instead.  (Not my friend Robert’s words, but another super Englishman; he needs no introduction, you know who it is): ‘Meet his little hussy with his ghost town approach, her face is sans feature, but she wears a Dali brooch.  Sweetly reminiscent, something mother used to bake…’  Hmmm, that and the Diamond Girls’ cookies reminds me, I haven’t offered you any muffins for a while.  I’m baking them here: @WeekendWitch.

Dreams, tenacity and what’s holding you back?

I rarely use this social media blog to talk about TV shows, let alone something as frivolous as X Factor, but former prison warden Sam Bailey certainly deserves a mention today.  The 36 year old winner of last night’s final has been hailed as an inspiration to women.  Many people may disagree based on the fact that it’s an unrealistic scenario.  After all, she hasn’t really achieved anything more than the good luck of being born with a great voice.  I don’t subscribe to that view.

Imaginative Training social media blog | Sam BaileyThis is a woman who grabbed an opportunity to follow her dream.  Yes, she’s lucky to be able to sing, and wow!! How I envy that talent!  Being tone deaf doesn’t stop me belting out Cher (to everyone’s dismay).  The point is that everyone has something they’re great at, it’s just that all too often those skills are classed as a hobby, undervalued or hidden away in secret.

Clichés such as ‘last chance saloon’ were banded around last night – but so what?  Who cares what route someone takes to success or how long it takes them to get there?  Surely it’s more about never giving up and believing in yourself?  Which Sam Bailey did, and good for her!  She deserves every slice of the world-wide fame that’s coming her way.  Determination and tenacity really can pay off.

One of the judges claimed that ‘the sky’s the limit’ for Sam; why do we say that?  Isn’t the sky a pathway to the much wider universe?  So why do we limit ourselves?  Well, self-limiting beliefs are often the reason for failing to achieve goals.  I can’t cite Henry Ford again (!!) even though it’s still my favourite quote, but it’s so true – the first step to success is absolutely believing in what we can do.

So come on, what’s holding you back?  Let’s make 2014 the year we all follow our dreams – business or personal – and turn them into an income-making reality.  My dream won’t be international singing stardom, for which you’ll no doubt thank me.  But I can sing what I like as I sit here typing…

“Dark lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one.  Danced to her gypsy music til her brew was done.”  I’m not a gypsy lady that makes dreams come true; just someone who can channel your business in the right direction.  Follow your dreams and your business will go with you… Or follow me and I’ll help you get there: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to the Huffington Post for sharing the pic!)

Music heroes, scary creatures and a trip to City Business Library

I have a new lodger.  A squirrel seems to have made itself a snug little home in the roof space above my office.  The first time I heard it I thought there was an intruder upstairs; definite footsteps and what sounded like rummaging through bags.  Grabbing my keys I ran to my car, where I sat shivering for five minutes while deciding whether or not to call the police.  The arrival of my neighbour prompted me to venture out of the car and he, oh so bravely, ran through the premises ready to confront the burglar.  I know he thought I was bonkers and no one, or nothing, was there.  I’ve since heard the noises several times, as well as scuttling along the side of the office wall along a gap little more than two inches wide.

My friend Alan is Head of Licencing for the public protection team at the local council.  He’s the client who first commissioned me to run a series of training sessions on alcohol awareness, and we’ve remained friends ever since – having shared some wine and a good few cream cakes along the way.  I’m a member of the public in need of protection so I’m hoping he’ll be able to advise me on how to remove the cheeky little creature and let me get on with my work.   Turns out it’s pretty hard to concentrate on writing a social media book with its constant scrabbling above my head.  Some days when I’ve been too distracted to focus, I’ve wandered down to my local library and worked in the reading room.  But… I have a new favourite place to go now: the aptly named City Business Library.

Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media blogDo you know it?  I’ll be running some mini social media workshops there in the new year, so I went along this week to meet the team and see the training rooms.  What a fantastic place!!  It’s a veritable hive of knowledge for small businesses – or any business in fact.  If you need help – on line, through workshops or with the help of some very well informed people – this is the place to be.

The computers contain a whole hoard of databases so you can search for information on virtually anything you can imagine! I went with one of my clients; together we’ll be offering a business growth workshop that covers finance and all-sorts, so he needed to see the venue too.  While we were there, he decided to carry out some research on music.  Now, as you know, I love anything to do with music, especially if its origins were in the 80s.  While he played around, I discovered how easy it is to create a targeted mailing list in a couple of minutes – with The Joshua Tree ringing in my ears.  (No singing along though…it’s very peaceful in the City Business Library!)

The library’s part of Guildhall, a fantastic medieval structure that I toured a couple of years ago as part of a sponsored walk through London to raise money for the Sick Children’s Trust (SCT).  Harry Potter was at his best that day as we wandered through Diagon Alley… Yes it’s here, right in the heart of our city!

I was thinking about the SCT in the build up to Children in Need, and the amazing work they do for families.  Talking about music, I missed Children in Need Rocks when it was shown live – don’t tend to watch much TV but so many people were commenting on Facebook that I caught it on catch-up.  After laughing at Chris Evans’ Botoxed smile we watched some of the music industry’s cream performing for charity and, yet again, I marvelled at the way in which Bob Geldof changed the world.  I’ve spoken many times on my respect for this absolute superstar who managed to achieve where governments failed to even try.

And I remember the night of Live Aid Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media bloglike it was yesterday – a fancy dress party with Gill and I dressed as Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone, dancing in the street at midnight to Bowie and Jagger.  That was way before my afternoon working with Sir Bob, which I still count as one of my favourite projects, by the way.  And his inspiration and charm keep him firmly in my top ten of heroes.  Who’s in yours?

I play Sir Bob often, but not tonight. Tonight’s reserved for the songs playing in my mind at the City Business Library.  ‘Through the storm we reach the shore; you gave it all but I want more.  And I’m waiting for you…’  Don’t leave me waiting… Come and find me: @WeekendWitch.

 

(Thanks to www.Guildhall.CityofLondon.gov.uk for sharing the pic.)

War, fashion fit for a princess, war, poppies, war – just war

Friday night’s Fashion for the Brave event was just fantastic!  The opulence of London’s Dorchester Hotel provided a gorgeous backdrop for Hilary Alexander’s stream of models parading the catwalk with spring florals and shiny hair.  The dinner was outstanding – as many of you witnessed with my Facebook photos of flaming brulé and flowing champagne – with pounding music raising the atmosphere to fever pitch.

Photo 08-11-2013 16 39 28The glamour and beauty of the fashion show and the presence of a princess couldn’t quite mask the horrors of war.  I was privileged to share the table with two casualties of war who have returned to civilian life, minus limbs, to take on projects that inspire other wounded servicemen and women.  These deservedly award winning men fight an on-going battle – as do their families – and the Soldiering On Through Life Trust works so hard to ensure they receive help and recognition for their efforts.

But the highlight for me was sitting next to retired Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE – one of the bravest men on whom ‘The Great Escape’ was based.  The Hollywood film was made before I was born and I’ve never seen it, although I’ve been told it’s Steve McQueen at his best – an adventure movie of handsome allied officers pulling off one of the most audacious wartime acts.

Imaginative Training | Social Media blog | fashion for the brave

The reality of life behind the barbed wire for these captured servicemen is unimaginable.  Charles Clarke’s joint plan for the prisoners to tunnel their way out of the camp was fixed for a moonless night in March 1944.  Despite the ingeniously hand dug tunnel’s exit being on the path of a patrolling perimeter guard, 76 people managed to escape – with three making it home to the UK.

Charles was shot down in 1944, a year in which my dad was taking his first steps and my mum was just a twinkle in her father’s eye.   Both my grandfathers served in that war; yet, other than a few faded photographs, I know nothing of what they experienced.  However, my cousin Adrienne’s American father Harry documented his time, and the letters he wrote to his wife Dorothy have survived, including his account of liberating the Dachau concentration camp.

Imaginative Training | Social Media blog | fashion for the brave

Cousin Harry

This year, Adrienne donated those letters to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, along with pictures, postmarked envelopes and an original ‘Annihilation of Metzrich’ pamphlet, telling of the annihilation of the town by the Nazis.  These items, the Harry Oberyant Collection, are proudly displayed by my family as an enduring testament to the absolute tragedy of war.  They’re also used in research and lectures to maintain the credibility of the Holocaust.  My cousin says, “The hope is that no one ever forgets; but we know that can’t be – the generations will go and it will become harder, harder – we can only all hope to make some small – infinitesimal contribution to something.”

Of course I don’t remember cousin Harry as a soldier.  I remember a smiling elderly gentleman who taught me to swim in Florida, took me to my first London show (Annie) and bought my first strawberry daiquiri.  He was simply my cousin’s daddy.

I supported the Fashion for the Brave event in a dress covered in beaded red flowers, not exactly poppies, but pretty close.  The emblem of Remembrance Day stems from John McCrae’s enduring poem In Flanders Fields, written when poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of World War I, their brilliant crimson an appropriate symbol for the spilled blood.

So this week, no song lyrics, but a remembrance of all the people who have died or been injured throughout our history, and still, today.  “Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.”  Keep your poppies on for a few days longer.  I will.   @WeekendWitch.  (If you respect the work of our armed forces, please share this blog – you can share the love below!!)

Love letters, being hypnotized and laughing ocarinas

Sue described Saturday as my poetry/art/Bohemian/music event, and that was a pretty good description!  But, I must point out – it wasn’t actually ‘my’ event… 32 artists contributed to the exhibition, and my own exhibit, ‘Love Letter’ was a collaborative artwork with Martyn Royce.  The response was phenomenal!!  Our work was pronounced as “powerfully evocative” and “an emotional knockout.”

A huge amount of talent was evident in the room, and I particularly loved Darren Ray’s installation.  Who knew it would be such fun to mangle a thread of wire into words to add to his display of written dreams and visions?  The music was fantastic too: Avant-pop band French for Cartridge performed wearing paper fan masks and offering unusual, participative instruments to the crowd.  If you don’t know this group you should check them out on YouTube; Cat’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and my friends blew their ocarinas with more laughter than tune.

Imaginative Training social media blogIf you’re on my mailing list or follow me on social media, you would have received a couple of emails advertising the event.  And this is what I love about entrepreneurial people: an enterprising caterer named Evelyn received my email and promptly contacted me to say she would be happy to cater the day.  I introduced her to the organiser, and lo and behold, Evelyn arrived with a delicious buffet to complement the wine that flowed throughout the afternoon.  Her teenage assistant came equipped with a portfolio of her own artwork and attracted a good deal of attention for that too.

It was also fantastic to see Avril Mills,Imaginative Training social media blog the inspirational force behind The Dream Factory.  Martyn and I are donating our artwork to that amazing charity to help make more dreams come true for the very sick children that Avril tirelessly supports.  Special thanks to Gill, Sue, Steve and my family for coming along – and to those of you I’ve met at networking events who came via my Facebook posts and email – especially Julie, Ju and co.  And lovely to meet Pippa, the energy healer who found me on line and booked a place on my time management training session.  (It’s running later this month at Canary Wharf.)

And speaking of healing, I am eternally grateful to Steve Short for hypnotising away my phobia of eyes.  No more will I be forced to get off the train because a person with a stye has sat down opposite me.  Never again will I swerve the car because a radio advert for Optrex has freaked me out.  And I can now sit quietly through Greys Anatomy and The Walking Dead without shrieking and terrorising the cat. Thank you Steve!!

I’ve had a bit of a Scritti Politti kind of week, so this couldn’t be more fitting: “Hypnotize… How could your nothings be so sweet? You left your love letters incomplete.”

If your writing’s incomplete, let me help you.  Copywriting, editing, business writing training… Whatever you need, I’m happy to give it to you. @WeekendWitch.