Renee

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.

Votes for women, healing a broken heart and a happy story about a cow

The strangest thing happened last week.  I was being kayaked (is that a verb?) along the Cam, feeling a little like the Lady of Shalott, when a cow fell into the water!  It was a spot where the bank was built up on concrete, so impossible for her to climb straight back out.  I’m not sure I’d ever seen a cow so close up, but as she swam past the little rickety boat her face looked serene and lovely – focused on swimming past the panicking rowers (me included!), intent on finding a safe place to exit.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe people on the riverbank looked terrified too.  I don’t know whether anyone had called the fire brigade – or whoever one might call to rescue a drowning cow, but a burly man with a strict-ish voice instructed us to scare the cow across the river to the opposite bank, where escape looked easier.   I thought the shock of me scaring her with a kayak oar might finish her off completely. Fortunately, she ignored all the people and a dipped bank about 200 feet along gave her the foothold she needed to waddle out.

Once back in the sunshine and munching a blade of grass, the cow gave an almighty moo – matched swiftly by her mother, who ran towards her, the herd close behind.  We watched as they gathered around and nuzzled her – it really was so sweet to see.

As you may have noticed, I’ve done little work for the past couple of weeks while my broken hand has been healing itself.  And, it turns out, my broken rib.  You see lots of posts popping up on Facebook about healing a broken heart, but very few about broken hands.  Or ribs.  So this week has been playing catch-up. I’ve created several blogs, PowerPoint presentations and a website for clients, leaving hardly any time to go out for lunch!

Found time to go to the polling station though.  It really irritates me when people don’t vote, then complain when the country – or city – isn’t run how they would like.  Especially women and, yes, I know that’s sexist in itself.  But women gave their lives so that we can vote, and there are still women today in other parts of the world for whom that entitlement is curtailed.  So what right do we have to abuse the privilege?

I think I’ve said before that I would have been a suffragette had I been born a century earlier, and not just for the beautiful jewellery: ‘Give Women the Vote’ – GWV – green, white, violet.  I’ve seen some gorgeous pieces in antique shops yet never treated myself to a piece, but I might…

One of the PowerPoint presentations I’ve been preparing today is for a social media talk I’m giving at the Shard.  It will be the first one I’ve done for a few weeks due to my injuries, so I’m looking forward to sharing some valuable tips on social media marketing for financial businesses.  The session kicks off the start of a busy couple of weeks work-wise, with meetings with potential global clients, a gallery visit, fashion networking and an open day at Birkbeck College – can I find the time to do a PhD between meetings and afternoon tea?

I’ve been doing most things using only my left hand and it’s reminded me of an album I played on a constant loop when Ben was a toddler – until he pointed out, ‘That’s a rude word, mummy!’ No rude lines in this one though: “I’m high but I’m grounded, I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed. I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby.  What it all comes down to, is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine. Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a high five!”

Well my hand is out of my pocket now (or rather, out the splint – most of the time anyway).  If you’d like to high five, catch up with some social media marketing tips, email me, message me on Facebook or tweet me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lustrous glazes, made up words and a mining opportunity in Botswana

Last Wednesday was interesting.  I’d been invited to a presentation about copper mining in Botswana.  The invitation was related to the possibility of me investing in a mine – something that’s not likely to happen.  However, Wilbur Smith has been one of my favourite authors for over 30 years, so the romantic impression he’s created in my mind of bounty-hunters in the Kalahari led me to the basement of a St Paul’s wine bar to listen and learn.

It was good networking.  I sat next to one of the key investors, who invited me to join him for a fact-finding mission in Thailand. I’m not going.  He told me people often mistake him for (a younger) Hugh Laurie, although his behaviour was more Hugh Grant.  He held my glass of Merlot while I checked my phone, as he had no signal on his… and he sipped a bit!

Didn’t stay for the sausage and mash buffet; we had dinner instead at the beautiful St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.  I’ll be interested to watch the share prices of the mines though – both in Botswana and Thailand – it’s something different.

Having studied linguistics, I should probably have been more excited about the weekend’s celebrations of Shakespeare’s death.  I haven’t actually read much Shakespeare but I like knowing which words he made up, like barefaced and dwindle.  He’s also to thank for some commonly used phrases, such as ‘all that glitters isn’t gold,’ ‘break the ice’ and ‘in a pickle.’  All of which applied to me at some point this week!

We had planned to attend a Shakespearian poetry recital at Elizabethan Hatfield House on Sunday, but decided to scrap that idea in favour of supporting a street festival in Whetstone, in north London.  Wandering along, warming my broken hand with a paper cup of frothy hot chocolate, the most inspiring stall was a collection of works by local artists.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingPhilip owns a number of pieces by one of the ceramicists who was there. She was proudly displaying her wares despite the bitter cold of late afternoon. Karen Cohen specialises mainly in one-off organic inspired pots, taking a particular interest in the texture and surface of the piece. She works with Raku fired pieces, experimenting with shape and the lustrous glazes typical of this type of firing.

It’s a wonderful thing when someone can create a business from their hobby.  To be passionate about your work is one of the most satisfying ways to live.

This may be a very tenuous link to the Bard, but it’s the best I can come up with on this chilly Monday morning.  “You can fall for chains of silver, you can fall for chains of gold.  You can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they hold.”  I didn’t really appreciate Mark Knopfler back in the day, but this has been one of my favourite songs for two decades, and Ben plays it beautifully on his Zebrawood guitar.  (Gill, you don’t like Dire Straits, do you…?!)

“I’ll promise you anything, I’ll promise you thick and thin…”  Actually, I don’t promise anything I can’t deliver.   Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how I can make it happen – ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Facebook secret messages, de-stressing and laughing at Grimsby

Facebook users were surprised this week with the revelation that we don’t see all the messages that are sent to us. You may be aware of your ‘other’ mailbox on Facebook’s Messenger system – this may actually be called ‘other’ or it may be called ‘message requests’ – Facebook seems to be changing everyone’s gradually.

If you go into your Facebook mailbox, next to the list of recent messages you will see a drop-down menu that says ‘more.’  Clicking on this will give you access to messages that weren’t initially shown to you, plus a further list of ‘filtered messages.’  If you use Messenger on your phone you’ll find this under ‘settings.’ These are messages from people that Facebook thinks might be spam, but you could find one from your long-lost uncle Cyril in Guatemala, who fled the country under suspicious circumstances and now wants to leave you his multi-million pound fortune.  Well, you never know.

12987023_10154107784761255_5685878567087393710_nForget uncle Cyril in Guatemala (I made him up).  I’m rather hoping I turn out to be a secret Rothschild baby. Because…  First visit of the year to a National Trust property took us to Waddesdon Manor, the fabulously opulent holiday home of the Rothschild family. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the estate in 1874 when it was nothing but farmland, and from the grassy plain he created his French chateaux-styled dream holiday home, which now acts as a lasting legacy to good taste and opulence.

I could get used to eating dinner here!

I could get used to eating dinner here!

All that money: more than you could possibly dream of, partying with royalty, collecting treasures, travelling, success, fun, more fun, more treasures… I’d be okay with that.  Yet was this man happy?  Tragically his wife died in childbirth less than two years after the house was built and the Baron never remarried. He did seem to have a steady stream of gorgeous women visiting though, so hopefully he remained satisfied with a bachelor’s life.

After the cultural finesse of this outing, we went to the cinema to see Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest film.  I wouldn’t have chosen to see Grimsby; I was dragged along with the promise of some sort of chocolate wonderment to follow, but actually it was very funny.  Crude, ridiculous, vulgar in parts and laugh out loud in others. I did get the chocolate treat afterwards, as always.

The following day was spent wandering through the perfect grounds of another Elizabethan mansion – Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Wild and windswept wooded areas lie adjacent to beautifully tended Tudor gardens and wild flower walks.  I spend a lot of time here at the moment, either with dogs and wellington boots, or without dogs and with a tendency to veer off towards the courtyard café. Or both, although that’s not great if it’s raining.

I’m mentioning this because my life is now a lot more peaceful.  Whilst I absolutely love the diversity and dynamism of London and all the city has to offer – especially the museums (I’m a gallery gal) – and its brilliant networking opportunities, at the weekends I feel at one with nature.  And I’m mentioning it today because April is Stress Awareness Month, the time for health care professionals to band together and raise awareness of stress while looking at ways to combat it.

With two sons stressing about exams and a cat stressing about the local fox (he’s taken up residence under the laurel bush), my memories of meditation techniques comes in very useful. For me, if not for them!  And a large box of chocolates always helps, of course… as does the odd glass of rioja.

Relieving stress is very simple: take time out.  It may be a temporary measure, but it honestly helps.  As Phil Oakey said, “Take time to see the wonders of the world, to see the things you’ve only ever heard of.  Dream life the way you think it ought to be; see things you thought you’d never ever see.”

I’m seeing things in Hertfordshire – it’s very close to London.  Come and explore with me?  Or we can catch up over a hot chocolate and squidgy cake in Shoreditch.  Arrange it here: @WeekendWitch.

Destined to meet, a sundowner and roses back in London

Although my holiday was more based on seeing how the people live in Barbados, I did, of course, indulge in some tourist activities.  The sightseeing trail of beautiful beaches is probably top of most people’s to-do list, and I saw plenty.  The clear turquoise seas and white sandy beaches, some still partly covered in the sea moss that mysteriously invaded the island last year are fringed with swaying palms.  My local beach, Bathsheba, is a surfer’s paradise.  The waves roll in a frothy, curling wall reaching heights of over 20ft.

Further afield, we visited St Nicholas Abbey, not a religious place, but a sugar cane plantation.  The lovely 17th century Jacobean building is set amongst lush tropical gullies and mahogany forests, and the 400 acres of rolling sugar cane makes quite a spectacle.  Aside from the guided tour of the mansion, rum tasting is a big thing.  The process is continuous, but not always available for visitors to witness.  On this day, though, the men were hauling in the cane to crush down to release the sugar juice for bottling into syrup – the first step on its way to rum production.

I watched for a while as they pushed the canes through the chopper, then decided to chat to someone to get a full explanation of the process.  Of the 20 or so men working that day, I chose to speak to a friendly looking Rasta who was swilling the liquid around a trough and feeding it through to the next stage.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywriting“Where are you from?” He asked me. “London, “ I replied.  “Where in London?”  “East London.”  “Where in east London?”  Well. This could go on a while, but basically – amazingly – he knows my home town – used to live nearby!! This man that I met 4,202 miles from home used to play cricket in my local park.  How incredible is that??!  There’s no such thing as a coincidence – we were clearly destined to meet on that sunny Caribbean day.  (it’s all a form of networking, isn’t it…?!)

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnother attraction that draws in tourists and Bajans alike is the Friday Fish Fry at Oistins, an active fishing town on the south coast.  As we enjoyed a sundowner or two on an upturned sailing boat on the beach, the sun set (almost) spectacularly in the west.  The beautiful peace evident in my photo is polar opposite to the scene behind me – a buzzing night market selling all manner of jewellery, ceramics, trinkets and souvenirs.  And a few steps beyond that, restaurants and bars thronging with crowds clambering eagerly to secure a seat from which every type of fish imaginable shows up on the menu.

And no Friday night would be complete without street entertainers performing and a large dance floor of elegantly dressed couples twirling in each other’s arms to the sound of calypso.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingMy last visit on the island was the gorgeous tropical gardens owned by Anthony Hunte, not far from the east coast: a beautiful oasis of lush greenery, fantastic blooms and a nest full of baby hummingbirds.  It led me nicely back to London, where my first stop was Sunday’s Columbia Road Flower Market – a floral treat right on my own doorstep.  If you’re in London and you haven’t visited, you really should.  A row of flower stalls squashed between Victorian terraces selling art, bric-a-brac, gifts and delicious food.   It’s a treat!

The bougainvillea is spectacular in Barbados, but my first love is still roses – and I have a beautiful bunch elegantly displayed in front of me as I’m typing this, courtesy of Philip and Columbia Road.  As Mr M. Loaf says, “On a hot summer night, would you give your throat to the wolf with the red roses…?”

So I’m back in London, back in the world of social media and business training, back into work mode.  A couple of people have called me about using their training budgets before the April tax deadline, so if you’d like to take advantage of end-of-tax-year offers, call me, drop me a line or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Creative installations, a performance psychologist and the devil’s own brew

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingMy thanks to everyone who supported the exhibition launch party at the Mile End Art Pavilion on Thursday.  The response was overwhelming and the evening was a great success.  Katja sure knows how to put on a show!  It’s always great to work with a fun, eclectic mix of people, and exhibiting my poetry installation with the talented artists and printmakers there makes me want to be more creative.  So I’ve signed up for a life drawing class!!  It starts in two weeks.  Ed, the tutor, is very cool, with a long twirly moustache and a woolly hat.  I can’t wait; it’s been on my to-do list for ages…

Sunil Bali is an executive coach and performance psychologist.  We’ve never met, but we’re connected through LinkedIn.  His is one of the few weekly newsletters and blogs that I subscribe to – it’s always thought-provoking and funny.

As this is the year I plan to tackle that to-do list, including at least two major scary adventures from my bucket list, Sunil’s recent blog hit home in a big way.  It deals with indecision and risk-taking…  Sunil says, “Playing it safe is good for roads and railways, but life requires risk if we’re to achieve anything meaningful.

We’re born to take risks. If we weren’t prepared to fall flat on our face, we would live in a world of bum shufflers where no one had ever taken a chance to learn to walk.  There are many dangers in life, but one of the biggest is safety, because you risk far more by not risking anything.

Moderation and splinters are for the fence sitters of the world who are too afraid to make a dent in the universe.  Playing it safe is mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise and doesn’t make anyone happy.  As former world champion trampolinist Dan Millman says, “Moderation is lukewarm tea, the devil’s own brew.”  

So, as you’re reading this, I’m scuba diving in the Caribbean, somewhere off the coast of Barbados.  Hopefully, anyway!  If it turns out that didn’t happen, I’ll be sipping a pina colada (I’m an old fashioned girl) under a coconut tree, on a beach wearing flowers in my hair and turquoise jelly flip flops.  But that’s not very risk-taking, is it?!  That’s the devil’s own brew again… (Although I do drink my green tea luke warm; drinks shouldn’t be piping hot.)

If I get home without the Padi certificate, I suppose I can always turn my hand to trampolining instead – I have a rather large and unloved one sitting in my garden.  Either way, I expect I’ll be posting pics on Facebook of frothy waves circling my ankles and something to do with a pineapple…

As a wise anthropomorphic crab once said, “Darling it’s better down where it’s wetter, take it from me.  Up on the shore they work all day, out in the sun they slave away; while we devotin’ full time to floatin’ – take it from me!”

If I’m under the sea I won’t be contactable, but later in the balmy Caribbean evening I expect I’ll be back here: @WeekendWitch.

(Many thanks to Sunil.  I’ve squashed his blog down a bit, you can read it in full here.)

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.

A quirky breakfast, Mayfair brothels and the chocolate ecstasy tour

Saturday’s chocolate tour with Nina was quite a delight!  Naturally, the constant stream of chocs we were fed was a delicious treat, but the titbits of London history were an added bonus.

Elle Coco (yes, that’s her name) explained the process the leads cocoa beans from the tropical fields to my mouth.  We learned to ‘appreciate’ chocolate properly: looking at the shine, listening to its sharp snap, letting it melt at the touch of our fingers, smelling it then letting it settle seductively on our tongues.  As it happens, Gill and I did all that in Switzerland, but we rushed the process far too quickly in our excitement to greedily munch the elegant samples.

Anyway, Saturday morning began with breakfast at Sketch, one of London’s trendiest restaurants.  Sketch has five separate dining areas and bars, each unique and stylish.  Its wonderful, quirky parlour was the opening venue for the chocolate tour, with bohemian furnishings and Louis XV chairs which we sat on to sip frothy grated hot chocolate.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBefore we left for our walk around Mayfair though, we popped into the loos – one being black and shiny with a huge diamanté spider’s web adoring the wall, the other an open space of futuristic, intergalactic-style pods.  Worth taking photos!  Elle told us you can actually book on a – wait for it – London toilet tour!! How funny is that?!  (Gill – your birthday treat??)

So we learned some interesting facts about Mayfair. Saville Row was originally the home of London doctors before the fields of Harley Street were urbanised and tailors replaced them.  Burlington Arcade was built for Lady Cavendish by her husband in an attempt to protect her from the drunks and prostitutes of the day.  Two ‘Beadles’ (police to you and me) enforce some ancient rules, including no singing or whistling in the arcade.  This dates to the times when brothels operated in the basements and young boys ran through whistling warnings of an impending arrest.

We visited three fantastic chocolate Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingshops – Charbonnel et Walker (from where I coincidentally recently enjoyed a box of pink champagne truffles); Prestat (the pink branded heart-shaped boxes from which I matched my bathroom paint colour – Ooh, perhaps I could include my house in the toilet tour!!); and Paul A Young (whom I met last week at a chocolate-tasting event at the top of the Shard).  So it’s official – I have eaten ALL of the chocolate available in the capital city!!

I can’t recommend the Chocolate Ecstasy Tour highly enough. If you decide to book, ask for Elle Coco, she was fabulous.  On a separate note, we spent a while discussing healthy chocolate – and no, it’s not an oxymoron.  Eating a square of dark chocolate each day is a good preventative measure for avoiding a stroke.  This benefit is magnified if eaten with a slice of fresh apple.

So here we are, another week of blogging about nothing but chocolate!  I’ve run out of time to talk about the business networking event I attended at Bank and the brilliant people I met. I’m left with no space to tell you about my night at Fredericks in Islington – one of my new favourite restaurants. And it’s too late to discuss this week’s training sessions on plain English.  Oh well, another day, another blog.

I do like the six degrees of separation thing.  The chocolate tour took us down Regent Street, where I first worked with Marion.  She once bought me a Doris Day CD.  Doris sang today’s lyrics: ‘Couples swayin’ to a nickel machine, there’s a corner where we’ll never be seen.  It’s lovely to share that lover’s delight: a chocolate sundae on a Saturday night.’

The person I’d like to share my chocolate sundae with is abroad tonight but he left behind a packet of chocolate beans that I can use to make my Sundae once this blog is posted.  I’ll drink that and be back on-line in no time – still eating chocolate probably, but ready to chat – right here: @WeekendWitch.