Renee

Networking fun, bargain books and grabbing a man where I shouldn’t (again!)

Having skipped most of my networking invitations over the past few months due to work commitments, holidays and funerals (my 101-year-old auntie!), I’m making up for lost time.

As you’ll know if you run a business, online social networking is brilliant for 101 reasons, but social media should be part of your wider marketing strategy. It’s also important to get out there in the real world and connect with people who you might like to do business with.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSo, in the past fortnight I’ve been to four events and met some fabulous people. Of course, Networking’s not just about making new contacts. It’s about building relationships with people you already know, learning more about each other so you can recommend potential clients and remembering names and faces so they spring to mind when someone asks if you know a good accountant, designer, event planner, lawyer – or social media management company!!

Wednesday night’s barbecue overlooking the Olympic Park, high on a hotel terrace with sizzling meats, delicious salad and an abundance of bite-sized cakes, is one of my favourite business events of the year. Run by the Newham Chamber of Commerce, which is far more dynamic than it sounds, it’s more of a party than a business event. I knew loads of people, met some more that I’m sure I’ll see again and was, as ever, greedy with the chocolate brownies.

This was the scene of (one of) my most embarrassing network fails. That night five years ago when my pink suede stiletto slipped cleanly through the gap in the decking, causing me to reach out as I tumbled forward…. grabbing the closest thing to hand in order to break my fall. I grabbed hard. And the closest thing was a man.  Or rather, part of a man. A rather red-faced man!! You can imagine what I grabbed…!!

This story was recounted several times during the evening, including by people who had actually witnessed it, proving that you definitely can attend a networking event and be memorable without even trying!!

Another lovely event was Andrew Segal’s lunch in Richmond. As the sun beamed down on the sparkling river outside, we listened to Royal artist-in-residence Jeremy Houghton  talk about his incredible artworks for clients including the Queen, Aston Martin and Wimbledon. I admire such talent, especially when it goes hand in hand with a warm and engaging personality. Andrew’s latest book, Beads of Blood, is available on Amazon – you can pick up your bargain copy this week for only 99p!

The thing with a lunch or formal dinner is that you get to know the people around you quite well, but must make an effort to chat to others sitting further away, either before you sit down or after coffee. At the Hofburg Palace in Vienna last week, I learned that 18th century dinner guests were only allowed to speak to the people sitting directly on either side of them. No shouting across the table, talking over someone else or hand waving in front of your neighbour’s face. Not that people generally do that at the lovely dinners I’m invited to. But imagine if you were stuck next to two incredibly boring people and simply not allowed to talk to anyone else! A good case for musical chairs.

…Which leads me nicely into Saturday night’s excellent Sing Song Club at my local pub – the Chequers. The event was quickly thrown together as a fundraiser for the tragic Grenfell Tower victims, so it was, in a way, sadly oxymoronic that we had such fun. The band played with karaoke-style wording displayed on a giant screen, but with the clever addition of chords, so musicians in the audience could join in while the rest of us shook home-made percussion instruments and much-loved tambourines. We sang, danced and drank large glasses of Pimms.

The song that immediately sprang to mind for today’s blog was Don’t look back in anger, as we all sang along to that quite rowdily on Saturday, with Sue commandeering the mic and walloping out a tune. But actually, the lyrics aren’t at all appropriate for the severity and nature of the tragedy, so – instead – I’m not quoting anything. I’m just sending love, sympathy and hope to the victims and their families. So much has already been said, there’s nothing new to say. Let’s simply raise a glass, Pimms or otherwise, to a stronger, safer, healthier future for this shocking world, and hope and pray for the positivity needed to get England out of these dark times and back on track.

Sad songs, happy days and so you win again

It’s always a pleasure to write a winning award application, as the clients I work with are awesome and I totally believe in the services they provide. So I can write from the heart, with passion and, of course, knowledge.

18485663_10208699780441789_90201385747404553_nNordens, the fabulous accountancy firm that I always recommend, won yet another gong this week: ICAEW’s Accountancy Firm of the Year (Essex). It’s the Chartered Institute of Accountants for England and Wales, so it’s a pretty big deal.  They’ve won it before, along with various other prestigious accolades, including the British Accountancy Awards Practice of the Year for London.

I joined the team for a black-tie dinner at Stock Brook Manor Country Club. There was no dancing, but a lot of champagne and surprisingly delicious pork belly – which I’ve always steered well clear of, but my son highly recommends – so I tried it, and now I’m a convert.

18556413_1460548417342827_1240640762771653331_nWe spent the following day on a trip to Ramsgate, a small Victorian seaside town in Kent. Another lovely meal followed our walk along the beach (with brollies). Again, there was no dancing, although I was one of the first up for the coach karaoke on the way back to London. Sharon and I have a long history of duets, so we sang a couple of ‘popular numbers’ together – not our usual repertoire of 1970’s cheerful hits: Billy, don’t be a hero and Seasons in the sun. (For some reason we always sang really sad songs about people dying!!?!)

Back at the office, Nordens have displayed their latest trophy along with their many other shiny, crystal awards. I don’t have an awards table in my own office. My recent CEO of the Year Award sits alongside my Inspirational Woman trophy on a bookcase filled with art books. My collection of social media and business books are nestled onto a shelf on another bookcase (you can get some of the them here) next to trusty dictionaries and thesauruses that were staple tools of my Plain English Business Writing before the Internet made everything available without the need to reach out even a glossily painted fingertip to grab a book.

IMG_0597The bookcases overlook a garden that’s disgracefully full of weeds. I’m slowly cultivating a beautiful outdoor space but it takes time. I’d really prefer a garden like the one I visited yesterday at Ayot St Lawrence’s Manor House. The Tudor property is my dream home, set in my dream garden – complete with azure pool (now I can swim!), tennis court (it’s been a long time), an orchard, vegetable gardens and the most exquisite displays of flowers all around.

When I got home I googled to find out who lives in such a glorious home.  Such a small world – the first people I spoke to about the garden said, “Oh yes, they’re our friends. They used to live next door!” Now, I’m not normally an envious person, and I don’t hashtag anything unless it’s in the appropriate place (Twitter, where relevant and useful, and Instagram, where expected) – however, just for today… #jealous.

This is the Terry Jacks song I was talking about earlier; please note that I didn’t choose the lyrics ‘too much wine and too much song’ even though they are probably more appropriate this week! “You gave me love and helped me find the sun., and every time that I was down you would always come around, and get my feet back on the ground.”

I can help you get your business feet on the ground, if that’s what you need – or I can help you spread your wings and fly. Without social media, who knows you’re there? (Are you there??) I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Seasons in the sun: Writer: Brel, JR, Copyright: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Carlin America Inc.

Horrible hackers, big bums and artisan food all over the place

I spent Monday morning working in the Hoxton Hotel – in fact, I think I mentioned that in last week’s blog.  What I didn’t realise at the time was that, while I was busily tapping away using a friend’s laptop, some nasty person somewhere was busily tapping into me.

So a couple of things to say about that. Firstly, thanks to those of you who alerted me to the fact that my mobile website had crashed. Secondly, thanks to the friend who had let me borrow his laptop to save shlapping mine on the train – I think it’s now been upgraded with a stronger anti-virus, anti-hacker, anti-whatever. And thirdly, thanks to my webhost: TSOHost, for quickly and painlessly restoring the site to its former glory, minus someone’s big fat bum staring up from your mobile phone in place of my blog.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingTo say thank you to them for all the times I drive them mad – and they always help me without charge and without showing any sign of laughter at how ridiculous I must sometimes sound – I sent them a gift. I’ve spent a couple of mornings recently delivering 121 social media training and support to BoroughBox, a fantastic foodie delivery and mail order company in South London, so I jumped on their website and ordered a gift box.

The carefully-sourced products all looked so lovely it was hard to choose, so being in an I-can’t-make-up-my-mind kind of mood, I emailed John at BoroughBox and asked for a recommendation. Hence the webhosting company received a scrumptious box of artisan sweets and treats to share amongst themselves.

Moving slightly away from nosh and onto real food, on Wednesday night I had fish and chips at the Camden Roundhouse before dancing to Poliça a band that Dale found through some trendy music magazine. We were definitely in the 10% of ‘older people’ – something that never pleases me very much. It was fun though, and always good to catch up with old friends.

As travelling home from Camden made it a late night, I skipped breakfast on Thursday. This turned out to be very lucky as it was a happy working day full of even more artisan food. (It seems to be seeking me out…) Charles Roc, a company that specialises in hotel housekeeping, invited me to attend a hoteliers’ conference in London that was organised by the Caterer magazine. As you can imagine, the food was amazing!! Tiny portions of deliciousness dotted all around the room, from a creamy Thai chicken dish to mini rare roast beef in brioche buns, to mango and coconut bircher and beetroot and something smoothies. And that’s just what I’d polished off by lunchtime.

Desserts were served in a bar overlooking the canal, with Rosie and Jim barges floating by. The display was an incredible array of lemon drizzle lollipops covered in pineapple icing (I think!), lavender cream éclairs, pina colada cakes and so many other delicious things that I can’t even remember what they were. I took photos. I also helped myself to a couple of doggy bags, much to my client’s amusement. (Or horror – not sure which!!)

So, with the chocolate fair stash on its last legs, I’m making up for the last couple of week’s binging with a daily stint on Ben’s exercise bike. As Freddie so famously said, “Bicycle races are coming your way so forget all your duties, oh yeah! Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today, so look out for those beauties oh yeah!”

Forget your duties? Not if you’re running your own business!  But if you have too much to do and too little time to do it, you can always pass some across.  Outsourcing your social media takes away the headache of managing your marketing campaigns on a day to day basis.  You can have a professional presence 24/7, 365 days of the year! Email if you’d like to know more about social media management, or ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.

Religious bath music, beautiful breakfasts and the most successful mailshot ever

Breakfasts are not what they were; they’re so much more innovative and delicious. I’m typing this one handed while I eat my beautifully piled up roasted butternut squash with smashed avocado, crisply basil, pumpkin seeds and a touch of chilli, topped with a perfectly poached egg. It makes early meetings in town very worthwhile! Not that they’re not worthwhile of course, but it does add a certain cheerfulness when the day starts with a pretty plate of food.

14237635_10208937517347664_5245553988248131302_nVery many virtual hugs and thanks to everyone who supported Art Catcher’s art exhibition at the Crypt Gallery, and especially to my friends, family, clients and colleagues who took time out to view, drink wine and say nice things about my poetry.  I think that was probably my most successful mailshot ever, as it put me back in touch with some wonderful people that I’d14269735_10154540549891255_2076221893_n met through networking or training workshops but lost touch with over the past however long, apart from the emails. It was so lovely to see you again, and I really appreciated you coming along!
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I actually attended three churches in three days. (Not even sure if I’m still Jewish…!) Martyn and I were guests at a very elegant symphony in a beautiful Arts and Crafts church in Sloane Square.  The Orpheus Sinfonia played a series of Romeo and Juliet themed pieces, including one I sometimes listen to in the bath with candles flickering, and a lively rendition from West Side Story. It was my first non-Christmas musical event in a church and the surroundings were glorious.  More wine was on offer, but I was driving home from the station so I stuck to apple juice.

14384128_10154540547431255_1736144235_nThen the next day I had a private mini-tour of Southwark Cathedral, that imposing building that stands in proud defiance of the plethora of modern architecture spurting up all around it. The stained glass windows depict famous authors and the lovely lady who showed me around pointed out the only church window in the world that includes a picture of a pub, as well as a Roman game carved into the ancient stone wall. The organ tuners were busily tuning the organ while I was there, and it gave me a bit of a headache so I escaped into the hustle and bustle of Borough Market, where chocolate brownies were a-plenty!

Continuing the musical theme (see how I’m edging away from art and religion to expand my cultural experiences!) Philip and I danced around the bandstand in Regent’s Park to Klezmer music, which I’d never heard of but was strangely familiar with.  It placed me firmly back in my Jewish heritage as we held hands with strangers and whirled around to Fiddler on the Roof-type jigs. (jigs? Probably not the right term, but I was holding hands with Les, who’s Irish, so I think I can get away with it.)

It’s hard fitting in all this art, music and dancing at the moment, as I’m completing a series of social media workshops across London.  I’ve met a few smaller and start-up businesses that don’t yet have the budget for one of the standard packages, so I’m offering a special reduced price social media service that gives businesses a brilliant on-line presence with regular activity, social engagement on Facebook and Twitter and direct targeting of potential clients. If you’d like to know more about this, please drop me a line.

As Paul McCartney once said (actually he said this many, many times, but not when Gill and I met him in the lift): ‘When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me; speaking words of wisdom, let it be.’ If you’re in your hour of business darkness – or you can see the marketing light but aren’t quite sure how to turn it on, give me a call.  I’m not always a wise woman but I do know a thing or two about social media marketing.  Or you can ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Theatre, theatre, music and more music – lots to tweet about!

I’ve been so cultured past couple of weeks; I’m a true theatre buff now.  Vamos Cuba was an amazing show!  I’ve been to the theatre many times over the past year and this was quite possibly my favourite dance show to date.  If you can call it a show? The dancers were incredibly agile and gave a passionate yet amusing performance.  It was vibrant, dynamic and exciting. I saw some of the dancers in the park opposite Sadlers Wells before the performance as I sat with a hot chocolate waiting for Nina to arrive.  They were very sexy men!!  South American dancers seem to have a quality that doesn’t exist outside of that continent. Or so I thought…

A few days later, Jesus Christ Superstar brought the house down.  You might recall that at our last attempt to see it, it was the heavens that came down – it’s one of the risks of open air theatre.  Not this time though; the wonderful setting of Regents Park provided a beautiful backdrop that melted away as dusk fell, and the twinkling stars added to the evocative scene.  This was Andrew Lloyd Webber at his best.  The emotional portrayal had many people in tears as the story unfolded, and it was quite simply a first class performance. but I definitely did not like the ending!! Loved the soundtrack though, and I’ve been playing it on a loop while I’ve been working.
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It was an overwhelmingly musical week actually!  Last Sunday night’s jazz in Dalston was fun.  My friend Mark is carving out a mini career photographing jazz musicians, so he invited me along to the tiny Vortex Club in an area that was once a no-go part of town but is now so highly desirable that the restaurants were spilling out onto the streets. Then Tuesday’s sunshine provided a lovely setting for the final Canary Wharf concert of the year.  We picnicked to the tunes of the American Songbook.

When I hear Summertime playing, it always takes me back to the age of 17, when George, my ginger-haired driving instructor, sang it constantly throughout my lessons. it probably took his mind off my crazy driving! I did – proudly – pass my test first time, giving me the confidence to be cocky… (Wrote my first car off a week later.  Wasn’t so proud then…)

George would tap his fingers rhythmically on his knee as he informed me, “One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing.  And you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky.”  Fancy spreading your wings?  If you’d like to spread your business message a bit further I’ll be more than happy to show you how – email info@imaginativetraining.com or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thanks to Roy Strutt for the lovely photos.)

A sixties icon, fathers and dancing goddesses

Cat Stevens’ voice hasn’t changed.  His sultry tones are still emotionally raw and the audience cheered when everyone realised Tuesday’s concert was simply, as promised, a fundraiser for Syrian children and not an opportunity to talk about Islam.

13466198_10154267066881255_1388867276007582269_nHe’s an incredibly engaging performer, down to earth and natural; his easy-going personality shone through his smiles. Converting to Islam in 1979 meant he stopped recording, but his return a few years ago bridged the gap over a whole generation, albeit without some of his best work. (His wife won’t let him play any of the stuff he wrote for ex-girlfriend Patti D’Arbanville, apparently.)  Now known as Yusuf, this concert was billed under both names, but the playlist was mainly pre-musical-break – as the audience had hoped.

When we got the tickets I wasn’t sure how many songs I’d know – Father and Son has long since been one of my favourites, but I tended to mix him up a bit with Bob Dylan.  So it was a nice surprise that I knew most of them and was able to join in, in my lovely, tone-deaf harmony that sounds pleasant to me and my cat, but sends everyone else running for cover.

The week took me back to London the following day for a members’ viewing of the new Tate Modern extension.  Well, the building has an abundance of wonderful space and I’m an art lover, so of course I enjoyed the evening… The layout is interesting, the work was mostly creative and the hot chocolate in the members’ café was smooth and creamy.

13493019_10154279481886255_1999541311_nThe subtext here is that Martyn and I were more impressed with the building than a lot of the artworks. Some were hugely creative and impressive but others less so – however, kudos to the artists for originality in marketing their art so well that the largest gallery of modern art in London accepted it for display.  Neither Martyn nor I haven’t achieved that…

I’m writing this on Fathers’ Day.  Although this celebratory day is rumoured to have begun in America at the turn of the 20th century, it only became official in America in 1972. Presumably the UK copied, and my guess is that the greetings card industry pounced on an opportunity.

By contrast, Mothers’ Day dates back to ancient annual spring festivals the Greeks and Romans both dedicated to maternal goddesses.  A Christian festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent honours the Virgin Mary, and in sixteenth century England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers and named Mothering Sunday.  Not being Christian, Greek or Roman, I still – obviously – enjoy the attention on Mothers’ Day, without the religious connotations or dancing around naked to goddess chanting. (Although I think some of my friends might indulge…….!!)

13237635_10154219615981255_5084423832331039728_nAnyway, I’m spending this Fathers’ Day morning ploughing through my son’s washing, as he returned from university last night with a year’s worth of dirty clothes. He also came home with a huge smile and a 2:1 degree from Cambridge – so this a very proud mummy signing off and wishing all the dads, step-dads, grandads, foster dads, common-law dads, like-a-father dads, uncles and fathers-in-law a happy day and a wonderful year ahead.  I’ll be thinking about my daddy in heaven, as I do most days.

I did post these lyrics on Facebook recently, but couldn’t miss them off today. ‘Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you’ve got – you will still be here tomorrow, though your dreams may not.’

Your dreams will… Make them your reality.  Ask me how: @WeekendWitch.

Wonderful winners, a walk through London & bubbles in a bottle of fizz

What a week! It’s been a whirlwind of business-related celebrations – and a huge amount of fun!

Firstly, the most enormous congratulations go out to my clients Nordens, winners of the ICAEW Accountancy Firm of the Year.  They thoroughly deserve the recognition for providing business services that go way beyond mere number-crunching. I could sing their praises all day, but it’s probably best if you’re interested that you see for yourself, so here’s their website.

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And yes, before the grammar police handcuff me, that last paragraph should have been written in the singular, as Nordens is one client and ‘it’ won the award.  However, I work individually with many of its 32 members of the team, so I prefer to say ‘they’ – anyway, isn’t the whole point that it’s the people who make a business fantastic?!  These are certainly amazing people, and it’s an incredible achievement that they have awards for best accountancy practice in London and Essex – as well as a whole host of other, shiny, sparkly, crystal engraved awards.

I write all their award nominations, so they credit me with helping to gain these trophies.  They sent me an enormous, beautiful bouquet on Saturday which was a lovely surprise – thank you Nordens; it’s a pleasure working with you!

13268186_1095635363834136_7909119860883937164_oHuge congratulations also to my other award-winning clients, J E Putney & Sons, winner of the business awards category for Growing Business of the Year.  Writing their award application introduced me a team of passionate and dedicated people, whose business is traditional lime plastering.  They use ancient techniques to restore historic properties in and around London, Essex and wherever there’s a need for their specialist handiwork. They’ve worked behind the scenes in some amazing places – you can find out more about what they’ve done to restore London’s heritage right here.  (Well done guys – it’s been wonderful working with you!)

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Congratulations also go to my friend Francesca who launched the seventh book in her series of London Step Outside Guides this week.  At a glittering party to celebrate the book launch, I discovered that Frannie can whistle like one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five heroines!  One loud toot and the room fell spellbound, while she and her partner Margie presented their latest publication and thanked the relevant people for helping them along the way.

Margie ended their speech with an amazing metaphor: ‘I could say we are a small fish in a big pond.  But I prefer to say we are a small bubble in the publishing glass of Prosecco… But with your support we will carry on fizzing!’  Love it!!

I own a couple of the books – they’re guides to walking tours of London written with the aim of kids leading a day out in the capital.  Absolutely suitable for adults too, as they’re full of quirky titbits of info, facts and fun.  One of the books even gives free entry into Westminster Abbey, saving a family of four around forty quid. Not bad, eh?  They’re brilliant gifts for anyone who loves London (which I do!!).

I’m back in London this weekend for a visit to Somerset House’s latest art exhibition and brunch overlooking the river, then at the television recording studios near Waterloo on Monday.  As my friend Sue’s friend Ray says, “Millions of people swarming like flies ’round Waterloo underground. But Terry and Julie cross over the river where they feel safe and sound. And they don’t, need no friends…”

We all need friends… because we’re all tiny bubbles fizzing away in the Prosecco bottle, bouncing off each other!  If we’re not already friends on Facebook, feel free to pop by and give the page a like. Thank you.  And of course you can follow me here: @WeekendWitch.