Renee

Corporate Vision Magazine’s Award for CEO of the Year goes to…

I’m celebrating!!

Having received a prestigious business award (and no, it’s not a chocolate trophy from Thorntons!!) I’m inviting you to share in the celebrations with bubbly, home-made muffins and discounts!

I’m very proud that Corporate Vision has named me as CEO of the Year for London, 2017.

In addition, I have been named in the UK Independent Business Honours for Excellence in Training, Coaching and Instruction.

This recognition came as a very welcome honour – and complete surprise!  Well, shock really.  After all, I’m not the largest social media agency in London, which proves yet again that size doesn’t matter – especially when you have good quality online visibility.

Here’s a larger version  of the article for those of us who don’t like tiny print, or you can read it in Corporate Vision’s March 2017 edition on page 88.

CV article

In case you don’t know the magazine, Corporate Vision features topics such as business strategy, emerging trends and the various challenges facing businesses today. The annual awards are research-based, with the panel shortlisting candidates and selecting winners based on information including industry journals, local and national press and client testimonials.

My thanks to the teams at Corporate Vision for choosing me in both categories – and even bigger thanks to those of you who have written testimonials and recommendations, both for my website and on LinkedIn.

So, to celebrate that my training is now officially ‘excellent,’ I’m offering 15% off all courses booked before 30th April 2017 and delivered before July. I’ll bring along my home made muffins (you can choose the flavour) and a bottle of bubbly! Drop me an email or chat via social media if you’d like to find out more..

Plain English conceptual art, being trusted and it wouldn’t happen in London

Driving along a country lane in Hertfordshire, we came across a farm of Jersey cows with an unusual shed in the courtyard. From a Star Trek-like vending machine, you can dispense a litre of raw milk into a glass bottle, which you pay for by dropping your cash into a little cardboard box. You wonder if the cow’s on the other side of the shed, legs akimbo and squirting directly into the machine!

milk blogYou wouldn’t get this in London.  The box was filled with around £50 in coins that honest people had paid for their bottle of fresh, unpasteurised cow juice.  Following a whoosh of blinding steam, the creamy milk oozes seductively into the newly sterilised bottle. And then you’re free to leave, having been trusted to make your payment and leave a comment on a post-it note about the convenience of the whole exercise.  Before we left, a sign on the wall caught our eye and, following its instructions, we rang the designated number to order freshly prepared, delicious Jersey cow’s milk ice cream – honeycomb, banoffee and Baileys flavours.

Being in the country reveals a stark disparity to London.  It’s so laid back, and about as far as you can mentally go from the hubbub of the city – although, as you may have noticed, I find peace in the many galleries I visit during my working week.  On Tuesday, Kathryn-from-Ohio and I visited the two current exhibitions at Tate Britain.  The first was a remarkable pairing of Victorian photographs with Pre-Raphaelite paintings – and the second: Conceptual Art in Britain (1964-‘79).

Conceptual art is very much a marmite genre.  Many times, I’ve heard people saying ‘I could do that, I could have done better, this is crazy…’  Yes, but you haven’t, you didn’t and, as mad as you might think it is, it’s earned someone a great deal of money and status in the art world.  They had the idea to present it to the public; it’s as simple as that.

My favourite piece was ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges}’ described as ‘an example of a structure made using organic unstable materials and ordered by time rather than a fixed, spatial or volumetric composition.’  It made the boys laugh. What was originally a pyramid built of oranges is now (at the time of writing!) a wooden square filled with a low covering of fruit. The point of the artwork is that viewer participation changes its molecular form – something I thought about as I ate my free orange the next day!

Kathryn and I commented on the verbose language used to describe the art throughout the gallery and I made some passing reference to my plain English editing work. I don’t do so much of this now, although I still run training courses to show businesses how to write in plain English without waffle and jargon in order to get their message across clearly with maximum impact.

orange blog

So it was very amusing – and annoying – to see that someone had, in fact, turned this into a work of art!  It was actually a team of three people who had targeted art galleries in the late 90s to critique their press releases under the cover of offering free advice. They faxed their annotated versions to the galleries with scores out of ten and useful, interesting and – quite frankly – rude comments.  I could have done that…

Oh well, I’ll have some poetry in the ‘100 Madonnas’ exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in September – hopefully it’s written in plain enough English to get the message across.  And hopefully you’ll come along to the gallery to see the 100 pieces on display – the preview is 8th September, 6pm-9pm.

As I don’t know any song lyrics about oranges, I thought I’d choose something from the period covered by the conceptual art exhibition. I’ve written about Cat Stevens recently, but chose him again today as he’s Joey’s favourite artist (musical, not conceptual) and it is Joey’s special week. “If you want to leave, take good care, hope you make a lot of nice friends out there…”  No. no one’s leaving, but it certainly is a wild world.

If you’d like to know more about getting your business message across in a dynamic, clear and understandable way, give me a call… or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Ethical business, death by syllable and sailing too close to the wind

I am now a sailor. Having spent five hours aboard a sailing boat I am familiar with all the nautical terms that relate to a boat capsizing. Fortunately we didn’t, but there were a couple of close shaves. Philip forgot to pull the blah-de-blah from the blib-de-blob that resulted in the boat tilting at an 89 degree angle, but he righted it in the fraction of a millisecond between going over or retaining an upright, almost dry position tossing about on the waves.

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

Not the best photo, but all that could be done in the 5 seconds it seemed safe enough to get the phone out the dry-bag.

Getting into my new wetsuit was the first challenge. Then I couldn’t even get into the boat. “Jump in!” he yelled, which of course I wasn’t able to. Suddenly two hefty arms around my waist lifted me up and over, literally chucking me headfirst into the boat! Bum in the air, face on deck, very elegant.

Disentangling myself from the numerous ropes that need constant pulling and tugging, tacking and securing, untangling, knotting, twisting, moving… (I don’t actually know what I’m talking about) I could hear him mumbling sarcastically about the grace of a gazelle….

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe idioms I have been familiar with my whole life – and have used in business practice – now have a whole new meaning.  Sailing close to the wind, taking the helm, man overboard… Wasn’t there a to-do a few years ago about the term Man Overboard…? During my Plain English Business Writing sessions I’ve had corporate clients who have set internal guidelines for using gender-neutral terms, and we’ve laughed about the extremes some people go to to avoid using the word ‘man.’

They can no longer say ‘manning the phones’ or ‘manpower,’ for example. And it occurred to me yesterday that if I’d taken a solid feminist stance and insisted on using ‘woman overboard,‘ that extra syllable could have killed me. Well, I doubt I’d have actually been killed or damaged on the beautiful lake at Rutland Water, but you know what I mean. Syllables save lives!  Now there’s a campaign for the new government if ever I heard of one!

I haven’t done any Plain English sessions lately but this week I began a series of one-to-one training dates on various aspects of social media. Coincidentally, three of the companies I’ve worked with have been ethical businesses. One, Change Please, provides barista training to homeless people. It involves carts of delicious, high quality, perfectly roasted coffee being sold in trendy locations around the city, from Borough to Canary Wharf, with proceeds going to the charity and homeless people being given the skills and resources to earn a living.

I gave up coffee seven years ago, but the smell of a good mugful and the temptation of creamy froth sparkling up at me still makes me yearn for a bar of galaxy to dip in and indulge… But I don’t submit! I’ll stick to green teas and mint infusions for the time being. Or a nice glass of cool wine on a warm summer evening.

We had a bottle of wine at the Canary Wharf concert on Tuesday, kicking off the picnic season with the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing sedately. I think this week will be more of a singing, dancing night – feel free to join us – we’re there most Tuesday evenings from 6pm.

Mark and I loved this in the 80s and we both still play the High Land Hard Rain album all these years later. “Get me back on board, pull me up with grace. Get me back on board; let me be embraced.” If you’ve gone overboard, or you feel you’re bobbing along and your business could do with a marketing push, give me a call.  Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Social media shopping, voting for a hero and a sparkly-eyed boy

The nominations are open for the Soldiering On People’s Choice Award.  I’ve worked with this amazing charity for three years, and the people I’ve met have been exceptional, inspirational and damn nice folks.  I’d had little involvement in, or knowledge of, military matters before I was introduced to the founders of Soldiering On.  The work I’ve subsequently been involved in has opened up my eyes to a world I’d previously seen only in passing, as I flicked through my newspaper on the crowded tube on my way to a gallery or networking lunch or cream-fuelled afternoon tea.

The men and women who fight for our safety don’t get the recognition they deserve – even less so for those that are injured in the line of duty. The Soldiering On Awards recognise and celebrate those people (and animals!), casting them into the limelight to raise awareness of their achievements and any charities that have supported them along the way.  If you can spare a few minutes while you sip your macchiato, please read these stories and vote for the nominee you’d like to see honoured at this year’s award ceremony.  Thank you.  By the way, Jeremy Vine is hosting this year.  He may or may not be dancing; I honestly couldn’t say – and I can’t yet reveal who the entertainment will be.  But it will be a fantastic night if you fancy putting on your glad rags and joining me!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI’ve started an Amazon shop!  It currently contains a range of books on social media, and I’ll be adding others relating to plain English business writing and time management soon.  I think I’m one of the few women I know that hates shopping.  Traipsing around stores, either liking nothing or becoming so overwhelmed by the choice that I have to clear my head with a large slice of chocolate cake – it’s all too much.

Bookshops, however, are the exception.  I’ve spent many a happy hour in my favourite one in Holborn, browsing the art section, leafing through everything in the esoteric corner and glimpsing (but not buying) mouth-watering recipe books.  So an on-line book shop suits me, and I’m happy to be sharing tools to help you get started.

I attended a business meeting last week that impressed me more than you could ever imagine.  My accountants recommended me to one of their clients – and he turned out to be someone who’d played in my garden as a small child!  Avi is now a successful and respected web designer with a digital agency operating out of Shoreditch.  Yet I remember him as a sparkly-eyed five-year-old who played football with Ben after school.  It’s going to be fun working together!

I finally got to see Sunny Afternoon, the west end show about the Kinks’ early footsteps then later leaps into the music world.  Fab show – highly recommended; people were dancing in the aisles.  I quoted the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset two weeks ago, before getting the show tickets, so wasn’t sure whether to quote them again today – but I love this. I knew it as a Pretenders’ track so I’m sharing that video rather than Ray Davies’ version.  Anyway, I’ve met Chrissie Hynde and not Mr Davies, although my friend Sue danced with him at the Ilford Palais for the Come Dancing video in 1982. But my ex-boyfriend Brian’s friend Nick inspired Brass in Pocket, and that story is one of my all-time favourites, so I’m going with this…

‘When I look up from my pillow I dream you are there, with me.  Though you are far away I know you’ll always be near to me.  I go to sleep, sleep, and imagine that you’re there with me.’

I could be there with you.  Otherwise I’ll be here, like always: @WeekendWitch.

A Dr Martens orgy, de-jargoning & carols with Charlie Chaplin – almost!

If you’ve never been to the Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn, you have to put it on your list for 2016.  It’s one of London’s most fantastic hidden gems.  The internal architecture reflects the extraordinary imagination of the creator of some of our greatest landmarks – including the houses of parliament, where I will be dining in the new year.  The collection is an eclectic mix dating back to ancient Greece that immerses you the minute you enter this magical world through the fairly ordinary looking front door.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingA wonderful man, who was not a tour guide but shared with us a small fraction of his incredible insight, confirmed that my Dr Martens are adorned with Hogarth’s famous painting of ‘The Orgy,’  one of eight pieces that make up A Rake’s Progress.  This artwork depicts a night at a Covent Garden inn – not necessarily one that I have been to though.  The paintings in this fabulous museum are displayed in a small room using a moveable-wall system that still seems innovative today, yet was designed and constructed over 200 years ago.  Hogarth’s works are displayed alongside, in front of and behind other great artists, including some lovely pieces by Canaletto.

I didn’t even know the Hogarth collection was here until Philip mentioned it on viewing my lovely shoes.  (Not everyone thinks they’re lovely…)  The museum is actually Sir John Soane’s home, perfectly preserved with its original furnishings, books, monk’s parlour and crypt.  (What do you mean you don’t have those in your home? Think how beautifully you could deck out your monk’s parlour with baubles and boughs of holly.  Or mistletoe…)

xmas 2015

This will be my last blog of the year – and what a year it’s been!  Having spent the first half mostly in Travelodges, it will be lovely next week to be pampered in five star luxury somewhere between the Cotswolds and Bath, where I shall end 2015 in a dry flotation tank, whatever that is…

Plain English business writing training dominated the first few months, and travelling around the country delivering sessions on de-jargoning was lots of fun.  I have met some exceptional people this year and been introduced to places I’d never have come across without my national training contracts.  I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know so many through networking – both in real life and via social media.

The last few months have been equally dominated by one topic – although less work-related and more chocolate-related.  Whilst I can’t yet claim to be an expert on all things cocoa-based, I’m surely getting there.  You can be sure the Wii Fit will be brought out of semi-retirement after the festive season wanes.

Anyway, while it’s still very much the season to be jolly, I’m off to a carol concert, held in the entrance hall to a grand old mansion once visited by Charlie Chaplin.   It has a huge, twinkling Christmas tree and the local church choir will sing on the curving staircase while I hand around my home-made cranberry and cinnamon muffins.

So it’s time to say bye for this year – and thank you!!  It’s a pleasure to write for you – and I’m truly grateful that you take the time to read this blog each week. Thank you for reading, sharing and laughing.  Have a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, successful 2016!!

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.

Creepy toy designs, pub work and drunk in charge of a chocolate factory (not me!)

Joan and I spent a wonderfully nostalgic afternoon at the V&A Museum of Childhood.  The creepy birthday party display in the lobby belies the charm of a toy collection spanning 400 years; although, I have to say, some of the dolls are really quite disturbing!  Quite bizarrely, lovely Victorian items embellished with antique lace and duchesse satin, and ornate 18th century Chinese puppet theatres made of precious stones, sit alongside grubby teletubbies and Star Wars characters.  While upstairs, a fantastic collection of dolls’ houses made my afternoon complete.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingWhile I was excitedly telling Joan about my forthcoming trip to Geneva, she recalled a Swiss story from when Mike worked as a food technologist.  That was a cool job and one I think I would enjoy, as long as it didn’t involve anchovies.  Perhaps second in ‘cool ratings’ only to the toy designer I dated for a while, which inevitably came up in conversation as we laughed at some ridiculously dated designs and packaging on display.

Mike’s job on this particular Monday was to run a quality control exercise in a Swiss chocolate factory.  He left Joan in the hotel while he headed off to work, only to reappear a couple of hours later – unconscious and on a stretcher!!  Joan’s concern was short-lived; Mike had been assigned to the liqueurs section… where he’d inadvertently got blind drunk and collapsed with alcohol poisoning!!  All in a day’s work…

I didn’t know Joan in those sherry-chocolate-fuelled days.  When we worked together in fashion, Mike was busy testing cream cakes for M&S.  I frequently negotiated the central line at rush hour holding an industrial-sized cake box containing a frozen strawberry and cream gateau.  That’s probably what started my love affair with frozen cream.

I’ve not had any days like that this week, but I did spend a whole afternoon working in a pub.  Not pouring pints – I can only imagine what a mess I’d make of that.  Instead, I ran a complete 1-2-1 Plain English Business Writing session in a pub nestled within Waterloo Station.  The rain was torrential and it seemed pointless to run through puddles to our agreed venue, when we could stay warm, dry and well-fed without stepping outside. It worked out just fine.

Random year alert: The best-selling toy of 1967 was Ker Plunk.  Bet you’ve clapped your hands with glee and groaned at that at some point in your life – yes?  In the same year Sandie Shaw said, “I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care?  If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there… Like a puppet on a string.”

If I’m not there with the puppets, I’ll be here with some social media guidance.  Enjoy your week! @WeekendWitch.

 

(Credit to the V&A COM for the pic – mine is the same, but blurry!!)

Summer in the city, skewed Beatles and a dollop of LSD

Canary Wharf’s summer concerts are always good fun.  A holiday atmosphere descends on Canada Square as the grass vanishes under the weight of picnic blankets.  The entertainment is generally first rate and as evening falls and the buildings light up, it’s a small oasis of happiness on a hot summer night.

I thought I was going to see a pretend Beatles band on Tuesday, so it was a surprise to discover that it was, in fact, the BBC orchestra playing Beatles tunes.  I’m not a huge fan of the Fab Four but, like most people, I know enough words to sing along.

canary wharfWe made ourselves comfortable and spread out the picnic, which mainly centred around chocolate chip cookies and pink wine.  The energy was high; everyone was ready to dance and wave their arms in unison.  2000 people (my estimate – may be way off!) were ready to join in.  The conductor bowed, the band struck, up, the singer shimmied her sparkling self onto the stage…  Then what came next can only be described as, in Janice’s words: Bing Crosby sings The Beatles.

Don’t get me wrong; the orchestra was fantastic.  And the singer had the most beautiful voice.   But the arrangements were so dreary we ended up wanting to weep, sleep or worse.  It was impossible to sing, even if you knew the lyrics, as no tunes were recognisable.  It was a clever (?) take on the songs but, in my opinion, not suitable for an open-air gig where regular attendees expected to be on their feet hollering at the top of their voices and swaying as best they can in the limited space available between friends and adjacent squashed up groups.

The overall evening was great though and we had a good laugh trying to recognise each song from its lonnnggg, slowwwww intro.  The ambience is always lovely and we did manage to dance a bit to the very last compilation of hits.

I can’t make this week’s concert as I’m running a Plain English training session in Staines on Tuesday, but I’ll definitely be there the following week for Queen night!

This was John and Paul’s advice in 1967: ‘Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, towering over your head.  Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone.’  My eyes are usually hidden from the sun behind my Jackie O Ray Bans, but if you need me, you can always look for me here: @WeekendWitch.

PS: the poem I wrote about John Lennon is coincidentally on the same web page as the poem I wrote for my dad, who died 23 years ago this week at the same age as I am now.  Remembering you, daddy… Never forgotten, always loved.

Border towns, Tibetan tea rooms and the heart of a warrior king

I’m spending a few days in the Scottish borders with Marion this week.  Some of my social media clients know Marion – she manages twitter accounts and Facebook posts, and is generally invaluable to me.  Non-clients may know her as my friend of 32 years – there’s not much we don’t know about each other, that’s for sure.  We worked together in our first jobs (substitute ‘laughed’ for ‘worked’) and we’re working together again now (sensibly).

I didn’t fly north strictly for a holiday; I was working in Edinburgh last week, running Plain English Business Writing sessions for a team from a local university.  So it seemed like a good idea to combine it with a trip to see Marion.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingWe’ve had such fun.  I always love to visit Kagyu Samye Ling, and this trip was our fourth visit to the peaceful and colourful monastery in as many years.  So we were surprised to discover that we hadn’t ever taken full advantage of the wonderful place!  It turns out that there’s more to the site than the Tibetan tea rooms where we like to take afternoon lime-mint tea and eat cheesecake, freshly baked in the monastic kitchen.

This time, we spent an hour in the glorious prayer hall.  We didn’t exactly take part in the service, but we observed the monks chanting and praying.  It was absolutely spellbinding.  The temptation to join in was strong, but I simply adopted my meditation pose and let the sound of the cymbals crescendo around me.  The sumptuous hall was heavily decorated in red and gold leaf and the Buddha smiled down on us as the chanting increased in speed and volume – it was bordering on surreal.

It was such a contrast to the previous 11264985_10153416474746255_5175802288702976955_nday’s visit to an ancient ruined monastery in Melrose.  The serenity of the ancient abbey belies its tortured past.  Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried in a small grave in the manicured gardens.  The medieval warrior king is fondly remembered locally as a national hero for his fight to gain Scottish independence.  A source nearby said, “He was a bit like Alex Salmond but less aggressive…”  (Far be it for me to comment on politics in this neutral blog.)

We visited the small border town in cultural mode for the annual Book Fair.  Last year Jennifer Saunders headlined; we’d have loved to have seen her.  This year it’s Dom Joly and Andrew Marr.  I’d have liked to have bumped into him too as, like me, he’s a spokesperson for The Stroke Association.

We stopped off for a late lunch in the pretty town of Melrose – and I’d like to give a quick shout-out to the lovely lady in the Apples for Jam tearoom and gallery.  She bravely left me in charge of the shop while she popped out to buy some gluten-free bread to serve with my soup – how’s that for excellent service?!

A visit to Floors Castle followed – a real-life Downton Abbey that’s partly open to the public: another nice tea room.  Then a garden centre – yes… more tea and cakes.

It’s late on Sunday and I’m struggling to think of a Scottish song.  But I’m here in the borders, so this is almost appropriate. (Yes, it’s a stretch, I know, but the sheep are bleating noisily and the cockerel doesn’t seem to have settled down for the night so there’s too much going on for me to run through songs in my mind.)  ‘Please forgive me for my sins; yes, I swam dirty waters but you pushed me in.  I’ve seen your face under every sky, over every border and on every line.  You know my heart more than I do, we were the greatest, me and you.’

No one’s pushing anyone in any waters, but if you believe you can fly, you probably can.  (But don’t try it at home.)  I’ll be back in London before the week’s out; in the meantime, I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

(If you didn’t already know, the lyrics are by Adele.)

Suffragettes: The fight the women fought and that chocolate fight

I’m all over the place at the moment!  Cirencester last week, Ealing this week, Staines next week – three or four days at a time, living out a suitcase, surviving on sushi in my hotel room, collecting mini toiletries bottles…  My cat barely recognises me when I get home.

This week I’m back to my roots: training people to write more clearly using plain English.  It’s a bespoke course designed for the business that booked me, and I love people’s reactions when they realise it’s not simply a lesson in English grammar or a telling-off for using jargon.  The training carries on through to next week, but I’ll be heading home on Thursday night in time to cast my vote…

If I’d been born in an earlier century I definitely would have been a suffragette.  And it would have been easy enough to get involved, as the suffragette movement was bolstered from a tiny cottage just a couple of miles from my home.  There are two influential local women that merit a mention during this politically-charged week: Sylvia Pankhurst and Ethel Haslam.

Sylvia Pankhurst’s mum founded the suffragette movement, so she was definitely a lady to be reckoned with.  In those days, this was a quiet, rural area and Sylvia Pankhurst’s arrival, with an anarchist Italian boyfriend in tow, scandalised the neighbours. While setting up the East London Federation of Suffragettes, their home became described as the ‘centre for radical thought.’  And as if that wasn’t enough for the delicate Essex ladies, the couple shocked the community even further when a baby son arrived and still no wedding ring.

Ethel Haslam was probably considered more respectable, holding the responsible position of branch secretary of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Ilford.  With her band of ‘sisters’ she would have campaigned for women’s equality in work and politics, handing out leaflets outside the very station I sometimes use for a fast-track ride into Liverpool Street for networking events.  If we’re connected on LinkedIn, you’ll know that, before running my own business, I worked in recruitment for five years.  The office where I interviewed people and changed their lives is opposite the station in Cranbrook Road; and, it turns out, Ethel Haslam lived in that same road – in a house that is now (to my delight) a cake shop!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut the story that interests me most concerns the boating lake in Valentines Park, where I can often be found during the summer, floating along pretending to be the Lady of Shalott.  It seems that Ethel and her comrades were sailing in the centre of the lake, waving a purple banner emblazoned with their motto: ‘Believe and you will conquer!’  Their peaceful protest was disturbed by a gang who began throwing – would you believe it – chocolates, at them!  Don’t think I’d have minded that.  Wonder what year Green & Black’s butterscotch arrived on the London shelves…

Ethel’s purple banner reminds me of The Stroke Association’s purple banners to promote National Stroke Month.  I currently have one as my Facebook cover pic.  They have the less provocative message, ‘Make May Purple,’ but I can’t help thinking that Ethel’s believe and conquer slogan is appropriate there too.

Writing this in my hotel room with a slightly fussy wifi connection, I didn’t want to spend too long thinking about lyrics.  So when these flew into my mind I decided to go with them. “From Kensington to Billingsgate one hears the restless cry; from every corner of the land womankind arise!  Political equality and equal rights with men – take heart for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!”

Although I’m far away this week, I’ll be home on Thursday to vote.  Wouldn’t dream of missing it after the battle those women fought to give me the right to do so.  In the meantime you can always find me here: @WeekendWitch.  (PS – I’ll be listening to Suffragette City as I drive to the polling booth.)

(Lyrics courtesy of Sherman, Sherman and Drewe.)