Renee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gatsby, Annie and dancing over Instagram

I’ve developed an unprecedented craving for pickled cucumber. No, before you ask, I’m not pregnant.  Although the time clock is ticking on that one. If I wanted another baby I’d better get a move on. I don’t though – a phrase that various members of my family will be relieved to read. It’s enough taking care of Charlie who, at the time of writing, is giving me the gift of a pigeon – delivered one feather at a time through his high-tech cat flap.  Anyway, I have two wonderful sons who will probably make me a grandmother one day soon. Aargh!! Quick!! Turn back the clock!

22290666_10155807902531255_1616715340_oTime definitely turned back this week when I took a couple of lovely teenage girls to Gatsby’s Drugstore in Borough for an immersive evening of interactive theatre. Gatsby, Daisy and Myrtle acted out their sorry story to an audience that learned to Charleston – a dance that’s close to my heart, as my grandparents were world champions!! If only they’d had Facebook and Instagram back then! They were very photogenic anyway, so with a few heel twists and swings the social media activity would have been through the roof.

aaaaaaaaaaaaTime also stood still at a performance of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre on Thursday. Annie is the first west end show I remember seeing, aged about ten. My newly- found cousins Harry and Dorothy visited from Florida and took us for a treat. I’ve written about Harry before in this blog – he was an incredible man who led the army in to liberate Auschwitz. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. That knowledge came much later, when Adey donated the war correspondence his wife had saved, to the Washington Holocaust Museum. That theatre trip was with my dance champion grandparents too! I have one special photo from around that time; it sits on the bookcase overlooking my desk where Charlie likes to lie as I work.

22154353_10155272772033423_3738147764438839508_nOn the other side of the family, crazy cute Stephen appeared via Facebook five years ago. He’s here for a visit now, and we braved the forecast gales on Sunday to admire the cityscape from the Sky Garden. London is phenomenal from the sky, and 35 floors up you get a fabulous view of the eclectic mix of architecture and the sheer scale of the best city in the world. We’re taking time out to visit another of my favourites this week: Paris. No doubt we’ll be tweeting!

This may be twee, but I don’t know any Charleston song lyrics and it’s too early for anything Parisian. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow; bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun. Just thinking about tomorrow scares away the cobwebs and the sorrow ’til there’s none.” Hopefully the sun will be shining right across Europe this week! So, you’ll find me for the rest of this week either back at ground level in London or hanging over the Eiffel Tower in France. Or here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.

Artistic surrealism, my new best thing and why I’ll be there for you (Because you’re there for me too!)

Whether or not you watched it, you’ll probably agree that Friends was a tv and cultural phenomenon. For ten years those six pretty people graced our screens and, for some of us, they continue to do so with timeless wit and humour bursting forth on a Comedy Central loop. The characters were each so well written, accurately developed and consistent over the course of the decade they shared with us viewers. Their lines were perfectly delivered making us feel for them as genuine friends.

I was a similar age to these ‘friends’ when the seasons first aired, so able to relate to the trials and tribulations of their lives with ease and laughter. But anyway, my friends are better!

So it was with a fair amount of giggling that Gill and I drove over to Clissold Park, in what was once a horribly run-down part of Hackney but is now a highly sought after residential area. First of all, the café was fabulous.  We had lunch in the converted manor house then wandered across to the first Friends Fest I’ve ever heard of in the UK.

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Having tea in Rachel and Monica’s kitchen

It was partly rubbish, partly awesome. No celebrities were evident but the girls taking photos in ‘Central Park’ and ‘Central Perk’ were lovely, and we had such fun! The highlight of the afternoon was a studio tour of the sets of the Manhattan apartments which served as centre stage for the whole decade. We posted loads of pics on Facebook of course, plus a few on Instagram.

In the programme, Monica was a chef – and being in ‘her kitchen’ inspired me to bake a little extra when I got home.  The Jewish New Year is always a good excuse to whack out a couple of honey cakes and my new gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate brownies went down a storm. Sharon provided three amazing desserts for Thursday night when 20 cousins came for dinner (thanks again, Sharon!) – and I followed up with platters of cinnamon balls (wrong holiday) and Italian orange and almond cookies (not Jewish at all but my new best thing). Happy new year to everyone who’s celebrating!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training Instead of attending synagogue on Friday, I accidentally went instead to the V&A to catch the Pink Floyd exhibition before it closes next month. Their Mortal Remains is Amazing with a capital A. Although, the aspects I loved were less about the men and their music and more about the fantastic, surrealist art. I knew very little about this iconic band other than their hit Another brick in the wall.  I used lyrics from that song in a school social studies essay and I remember the teacher (Beryl Evans) correcting them! It really peed me off at the time – and, clearly, I still hold a grudge, remembering it well some 37 years later!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | LinkedIn coaching ! LinkedIn training We also visited the Balenciaga Shaping Fashion exhibition, a display of the influential designer’s exquisite work. It takes me back to my fashion buying days and makes me wonder, again, how my life might have panned out if I’d stuck to that career instead of diverting at the age of 23. My job was actually very similar to Rachel’s in Friends.

Was this a one-hit wonder for the Rembrandts? I don’t know what else they’ve done, but they certainly hit the jackpot with this song! “So no one told you life was gonna be this way. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke; your love life’s D.O.A. It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear – when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year.”

My job’s no joke. It certainly makes me smile but it’s very important, especially for business owners who don’t have the time, skills or manpower to handle their own social media. There’s no need for your business to be stuck in second gear – I’ll help you get a move on. “I’ll be there for you!!” Here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Global business, LinkedIn profiles and Viking Pirate Women

Sometimes when we’re introduced to people through random conversations, we make business contacts that help us immensely in our work, but to add sugar on the top, we can build relationships that turn into valuable friendships. This has been the case with Kathryn.

A client introduced me to Kathryn a couple of years ago. (He wasn’t a client at the time; he is now). I was looking for a recommendation for a professional service, and he’d engaged her for something similar. Hence an introductory email and we were good to go.

One of the most fantastic things about our digital age is the ability to work with clients and suppliers anywhere in the world. I’ve worked with businesses across the globe from the Netherlands to Australia, via the Ukraine and USA, and my lovely team are all over the place. Kathryn hails from Sedona, a beautiful area of Arizona with russet-red mountains; an oasis of lush landscape settled like a jewel in the heart of the desert.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingKathryn’s in Europe for a couple of months, so we met up to spend a day at the Design Museum in Kensington.  I once went to the Commonwealth Institute on a school trip and this new museum stands in its place. It’s interesting – the Commonwealth Institute slowly vanished as the commonwealth itself shrunk, yet today’s displays include a history of global communication that reflects the globality of our history.

SImaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritinghe’s immensely good company, and stunned me with the title of the lecture she’ll be giving later this month at a Danish conference: Viking Pirate Women! How cool is that?! She’s an expert in medieval literature and this is an opportunity to discuss something that I, for one, don’t encounter on a daily basis. Do you?

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Doubt they looked like this in Viking times…

Princesses and queens fighting for their thrones, avenging their husbands’ executions and avoiding marriage: these are just a few of the reasons these women took to the seas – often disguised as men in order to secure their places on-board. Sounds very Game of Thrones-ish. Compared to that, we almost live in boring times. They’d have had a few tasty posts if social media had been around in those days, that’s for sure.

While Kathryn’s having fun entertaining and educating the conference delegates in Denmark, I’ll be right here in England, educating people all over the world on the effective use of LinkedIn.  In case you didn’t get my newsletter this month, I’m offering LinkedIn coaching sessions for the introductory price of only £75 – all via Skype, so you don’t have to leave your office. Or home, if you work from home. I’d prefer no pyjamas, but I’ll leave it up to you.

The session covers an awful lot for an hour, so be prepared for fast, hard work – but you’ll achieve so much! An awesome profile, improved search engine status and the ability to find the right people to help you in business. You can click here if you’d like to book a session or find out more – or to sign up to the mailing list for hints and tips on social media.

As tempting as it was to search out an 80s vintage classic Adam Ant lyric, these far less trendy words – actually quite shocking for children – flew into my mind: “We kindle and char, inflame and ignite, … we burn up the city, we’re really a fright.”  With visions of people on Tinder throwing down their reading material so they can hit the town and terrorise the community, this is a good example of the opposite image you want to portray on LinkedIn!! Agree? Let’s chat further! You can message me on LinkedIn, of course – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lyrics credits: Songwriters: F Xavier Atencio, George Edward Bruns · Published by: Lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

Counting on social media, brain power and falling in love with Ned Stark

At my son’s insistence, I’ve started watching Game of Thrones.  Yes, I know I’m arriving late at this party but I’m here now, with mead bubbling and swords thrashing (or whatever it is they’re doing) – and with only 62 hours of TV watching to go to catch up with the rest of the global population. So far, it’s quite good, but I have yet to fall in love with the characters or understand the full storyline.  My reluctance to think it’s the most amazing thing ever is perhaps a problem with my brain. So…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI recently underwent three hours of mental testing in London to establish how effectively my brain is working. Interestingly, it’s better than I thought! This will be reassuring for my clients – and my family too, I guess. I popped up to town on Wednesday to go through the results, which showed a remarkable change in what I’d always believed were my ‘best subjects.’  English and humanities had always been my forte at school, college and university, while a distinct hatred of maths meant that I worked in Woolwich market on double maths days during my school years rather than endure the boredom of 90 minutes of numbers. (My mum reads this blog but it’s okay – she knows I bunked off school on maths and PE days – it was fine back then, no one went to prison for kids skipping school in the 80s.)

Anyway, while I scored in the top 5% of the population for language and cognition (luckily – considering my line of work!), I scored in the top 1% for maths and executive function. It made me laugh in disbelief.  I can add VAT in my head, but working out the nett cost of an item takes at least a scrap of paper and my purple pen. I can split a bill and add a tip, estimate arrival times based on maximum speeds (not that anyone needs that anymore; I couldn’t think of a better example), yet I have never considered myself a particularly numerate person. So to be told I’d ‘aced all the tests’ was pretty good for my self-esteem.

Now I’m thinking of ways to use this newly recognised skill. My best friend’s daughter studied pure maths at Cambridge and one of her first tasks was to cut a cake into equal proportions so that everyone thought they had the largest slice. Now that’s a job I could cope with!

I want to end this blog with lyrics about numbers as I’m apparently good at them now. So I’m sitting right here in a John Lewis café racking my brain because I once heard a song about different ways of measuring something – not sure exactly what but I think it might be love.  Whatever it is, it’s going to be more fitting than 2,4,6,8 Motorway, which is the only other ‘numbers’ song that springs to mind.

Fast forward five minutes… A quick query posted on Facebook has given me the answer!! Thanks to Paula, Sharon, Lyn, Mark, Elaine and everyone else who jumped up with suggestions – including my crazy cousin Stephen in Vegas who posted a pic of a chimp singing while wearing a hat – not one of these lovely custom-made ones though!

It’s from Rent, one of the few shows I haven’t seen. “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes: How do you measure – measure a year? In daylights – in sunsets; in midnights – in cups of coffee. In inches – in miles; in laughter – in strife… How about love? How about love? Measure in love! Seasons of love.”

I could add on to that: …In social media posts – in blogs; in LinkedIn connections – in boxes of chocs. In Instagram pics – in tweets; In followers, in cakes that are sweet. (Sing it to the same tune!!)

I could go on. (How long until I fall in love with Ned Stark from Game of Thrones then?) If you’d like to know more about how you can market your business in a year of social media activity, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Lyrics: Jonathan Larson, Universal Music Publishing Group.

Being homeless, being creative, being lost for words

The Girl from the North Country is a play at the Old Vic by Conor McPherson, set in 1930’s America during the depression and featuring a Bob Dylan playlist. Shirley Henderson stars, playing a woman with dementia, inhibition-free, dancing inappropriately. I’ve watched this actress in many things from Bridget Jones to Harry Potter, but nothing prepared me for the strength of her powerful voice belting out the classic Like a Rolling Stone. She was a giant on stage. We saw her leaving the theatre while we waited for a cab, a tiny figure in a black hoodie, unobtrusive in the London night-time drizzle, polar opposite of the colourful character she played on the stage. Pure, unadulterated talent. This play thoroughly deserves its five star reviews!

It was a week of talent, beginning with a night at the London Palladium with Art Garfunkel. I’ve loved Simon and Garfunkel since I was a child.  I have their albums, I know their words, I have a book with their guitar chords, ‘borrowed’ from Mark during the last century, that I’ve been learning for, oh, only around 30 years. How on earth am I going to choose lyrics to end this blog?  It should probably be Bridge over troubled waters, as my dad sang that to me – and this week marked 25 years since he left this world – but Dylan is playing through my mind this morning.

The lyrics to Like a Rolling Stone are hard and jolting, confrontational. I’d never listened properly to the verses before but the song’s about a homeless woman who’s fallen from a life of grace.  I wonder who inspired it. I recently gave a homeless girl money for a night’s shelter in a hostel. She started telling me her story but I was late for a meeting and only spent a couple of minutes walking with her. I felt guilty later that day when I spent a small fortune on a new dress, an impulse buy, the cost of which could have given her a fortnight’s stay in the hostel.

I’m often cynical about homelessness and prefer to buy someone a sandwich than give them money in case it’s wasted on drugs or gambling. But who am I to judge? It constantly bemuses me that homelessness can even be an issue still in this day and age, in a relatively prosperous society. Sometimes I’m simply lost for words.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn a lighter note – but somewhat related as it involves a bunch of people losing their home at short notice – this week was our last art class for a while. Ed and his housemates have been evicted from the quirky property that we all called our home on Wednesday evenings, but which was really his home. The spacious room above a pub was filled with fairy lights, vintage furniture, objet d’art and, for some time, a sex swing… It was interesting, it was fun and, for me, it was a very convenient 15-minute drive door-to-door.  If you know of any premises in east London that could house a weekly group of around 30 artists – some aspiring, some professional and most just incredibly awesome, please let me know. Likewise, if you know of premises where they could actually live, that would be useful too.

In the meantime my creative outlet will have to be filled by writing poetry again. I haven’t written anything for a while but I’ll be exhibiting this autumn as part of an art show to celebrate the life of Anne Frank and raise awareness of persecution and discrimination worldwide. So I’d better dust off my poetry hat and get writing.

Good grief – Bridge over troubled water is also about someone becoming homeless! This seems to be a theme for starting the week. I’ll be leaving my nice, warm home shortly for a networking lunch at Chancery Lane – I’ll take a packed lunch with me today to give to the homeless guy who shelters in the subway at Gants Hill station. It’s not much, but it’s going to be on my mind otherwise.

Art Garfunkel said, ‘Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine if you need a friend… I’m sailing right behind.’ That’s more positive anyway. I’m behind – or in front. Or here, at your fingertips: @WeekendWitch.

Passenger Casanova, being a mother-in-law and getting my bum wet

My son Ben’s engagement has been quite a turning point. He’s all grown up! When Oli graduated I realised that no longer having children in education kind of, somehow, put me in a higher age bracket. Now, just two weeks later, I have an engaged son and future daughter-in-law.  I can no longer lie about my age. I will soon be that dreaded being: the mother-in-law!

(Actually, hopefully not dreaded. I have always got on really well with my mothers-in-law and boyfriends’ mums; one ex-boyfriend’s mum still sends me Christmas cards – 30 years later!)

20106372_10155570239851255_3028934993373906103_nAnyway, it was such a lovely day. Ben and Hayley looked radiantly happy, and it was so wonderful to see them surrounded by friends and family. I would like to officially welcome Hayley into our family, but they’ve been together for eight years, so she is already a firm fixture and much loved member of the ‘team.’

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Big shout out to the incredible band who kept 150 people entertained throughout the afternoon and evening: Passenger Casanova. These guys are totally awesome! They were Oli’s friends from school so I’ve known (most of) them since they were 11 years old and pounding the drums on Guitar Hero in my house on Friday afternoons. Now they’re 22 and close friends of both Oli and Ben, and they play the instruments for real. And they play them amazingly well.

20108177_10155570461356255_7332521067663938609_nThis band does not do cover versions – they write their own material then perform it in clubs around London. But for the engagement party they agreed to do a full set of covers – including 70s and 80s dance music and classics such as Everybody wants to rule the world. They learned the music and lyrics, rehearsed hard and were absolutely perfect. The sun shone and people danced and they helped to create a wonderful atmosphere for a such a happy occasion.  Thank you Mandeep, Saif, Tom, Jack and Ryan!

150 people in my house was always likely to be somewhat stressful, yet everything went smoothly, all things considered.  But to counteract any potential stress, Philip took me to a fabulous hotel the next day for a night of luxury. Cream tea, meandering through beautiful gardens, scrumptious dinner and a swim and sauna – very relaxing.  Then… followed by a day of sailing at Rutland Water. I can tell you that in the past, this has not been relaxing. It’s been the opposite of relaxing.

I don’t sail. Correction, I didn’t sail. I liked sales. I still like sales; now I also like sails.  Captain Philip thoughtfully booked a lesson to teach me the basics – the original idea being more about me being able to sail close to the wind as he hardened up…

20197122_10155580021966255_199247935_nThe day turned out to be such fun for both of us.  I can now ease the sails windward and trim the sails leeward. I can adjust the jib to come about and release the spinnaker from its waterproof sheath.  I can get into the boat without getting my bum wet and, most importantly, I can set the sails to ‘picnic position’ – the reason being self-explanatory. Ben-the-fantastic-tutor from Rutland Sailing Club explained that the secure bag is a very useful vessel for storing ice and a nice bottle of prosecco… (I highly recommend Ben if you fancy learning to sail too.)

Although I own a very tight-fitting (to the point of strangulation) wetsuit, I don’t have matching shoes. A kind lady in the changing room lent me hers. I’d never met her before and may never see her again, yet she took off her waterproof boots and passed them over to me with a smile. How many people would so readily hand over their own clothing to a complete stranger? Not even sure I would. She was really lovely!

Roland Orzabal and friends put these words in Passenger Casanova’s mouths on Sunday and I agree with them.  “Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to rule the world.”

Rule it, sail it, do business via social media with it.  The world’s a smaller place than it used to be, If you’d like help to target new clients on the other side, give me a call and we can chat about a meaningful social media strategy. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

(PS – (I’m laughing as I read that back! All real sailing terms!! )

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Princess dresses, Bat out of Hell and feline mental health issues

I’ve skipped a couple of weeks of blog writing. Only for me – my clients’ blogs are still all on time, of course.  I tell myself no one will notice if I miss a week, which is the opposite of my professional advice to everyone else! And naturally people do notice, and I get emails asking if I’m alright, which is really nice, and very kind.  I’m absolutely fine, thank you; busy nursing the new kitten I mentioned last time… who, it turns out, suffers from mental health issues!

Charlie’s incredibly sweet, but self-harming. It’s very sad. He gets so distressed when he’s alone that he pulls out his fur in clumps and make the skin sore and blistered. The vet’s given antiseptic wash, antibiotic cream and a very expensive pheromone diffuser to calm him down. It certainly didn’t make me feel calm when I got the bill. C’est la vie!

The heatwave that’s engulfed us over the past couple of weeks has made me feel like I’m on holiday. I can’t deny that I get less done when the sun’s scorching, and I’ve had some super days out when I should have been working.

Gill and I had a wonderful day at Kensington Palace to celebrate her birthday. Princess Diana’s dress collection currently on exhibition there is a nostalgic trip through the 80s – the time when I worked in fashion buying.  I remember well the design and creative teams scurrying around each time Diana appeared with a new look. I’d be on the phone to milliners, jewellery suppliers and belt manufacturers before she’d stepped out of the limousine. I never met Diana, although I met Prince William after her death; I think I’d have liked her though. She shared a birthday with Gill, so undoubtedly they would have shared some personality characteristics. I’d have happily shared her dresses.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe elegance was contrasted in polar fashion after dinner when we sang along at Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell: the Meatloaf show at the London Coliseum. This is one of my top two albums of all time, so I knew I was going to enjoy the music – but the whole show was stunning! Fabulous sets, brilliant choreography and amazing, well, everything. I think Diana would have enjoyed it too!

Other fun in the sun included the Hadley Wood Jazz Festival (my boyfriend makes a superb picnic; it’s worth dating him just for that).  Also Gay Pride (we missed the carnival because of the vet’s visit but what we caught was entertaining) and a number of lunches/dinners/Pimms in the sunshine with not enough sun cream and a little too much of my home-made insect repellent.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBut the highlight of the summer so far was, without a doubt, my son Oli’s graduation from Cambridge with a BSc and MSc in something chemistry-related. From the ancient ceremony in Senate House, conducted completely in Latin, to the BBQ on the college lawn, with more Pimms, champagne and a good deal of delicious food – the day was perfect.  I couldn’t have been prouder and, if you follow me on Facebook you may have seen a selection of photos drizzled throughout the day.

He needs to find a job now, so if anyone reading this needs a molecular quantum mechanic – or just a Cambridge graduate who is incredibly smart and funny, please get in touch.

As the main man says; “Oh, baby you’re the only thing in this whole world that’s pure and good and right. And wherever you are and wherever you go, there’s always gonna be some light.”

If you’d like to lighten up your social media, spice it up or crank it up – give me a call, email or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being catty, signing contracts and something bizarre

If you’ve been feeling hot this week, spare a thought for me.  I adopted an eight month old kitten at the weekend and had to sign a contract with the cat sanctuary that I won’t have windows or doors open for four weeks.  Yes… Four weeks!!

Charlie needs time to settle in properly before being introduced to my garden, with its nest of pretty (but spiteful) robins and an influx of neighbourhood cats. I think they remember that my old cat flap was broken and allowed them in to sneakily grab food that wasn’t theirs.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe cat sanctuary in Waltham Abbey was amazing, but heartbreaking. I would have taken more cats but my circumstances don’t allow it right now. An allergic boyfriend and future daughter-in-law means that I’m limited to hypo-allergenic breeds, so it was lucky that Charlie popped up.

It was interesting that I had to sign a contract. It had all sorts of stipulations, some enforceable, others less so. It reminded me that the lawyer who kindly drew up new contracts for me a couple of months ago is probably getting frustrated that I haven’t implemented them yet.

I will do.  Up until now I have provided social media services following discussions with the clients and ongoing reviews. I have never tied anyone in to a minimum service period, although I always explain that you need to allow at least a year to show return on investment. Some people just want a six-month push to get them up and running, and that’s fine.

I saw various contracts of historical importance last week at the Churchill War Rooms. It’s a fantastic museum that I’d never heard of until last year; the underground bunker where the cabinet operated during the war. Hundreds of people lived and worked there, just metres below the city, in a capsule world that no-one else knew existed. Decisions were made, strategies were implemented and a small cat wandered the halls waiting for Churchill to tickle his tummy.

One exceptional airman that fought in the war that Churchill led is Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE.  I’ve written about this delightful man before (flying-in-a-spitfire-the-finest-banquet-in-london-and-ladies-in-not-many-clothes/) and was so pleased to see him again last week at a reception held at the Ministry of Defence. We were launching the 2018 Soldiering On Awards to recognise outstanding and inspirational members of the military family. Air Commodore Clarke has won one, as have many incredible people – and animals! (No cats yet, though.)

Aside from politics and military leadership, Churchill was a wonderful artist and writer.  One of his best quotes (in my opinion) is: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  Charles Clarke was going through hell when he was shot down and captured by the enemy. He was one of the brave men portrayed in The Great Escape who battled his way to freedom. Another Churchill quote that’s appropriate for then and now is, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

It sure is. If you know of anyone who deserves recognition, please consider nominating them for one of these prestigious awards.  Nominations open shortly – you can check out the categories here.

Determined to find a military-themed song more cheerful than Billy don’t be a hero (which Sharon and I sang repeatedly throughout our childhood), I googled and this came up in Spinditty’s songs about soldiers and veterans: 8th of November by Big and Rich.  It’s the true story of Niles Harris, a 19-year-old boy from Deadwood, South Dakota, who hugged his mother goodbye as he left home for the army to fight in the Vietnam War. Just a few months later, on November 8, 1965, he encountered an epic battle in which 48 of his fellow soldiers died. Niles was injured, but fortunately survived.

The reason this touched me is that 8th November is my birthday! Touching. bizarre and more than a teeny bit creepy. Do you have a song about the day you were born? Even if you’re not a fan of country music, the video is worth watching. The lyrics aren’t overly cheerful, so I’ll simply quote… “Saw the eagle fly through a clear blue sky; 1965, the eighth of November.”

Creeped me out, but on the plus side there’s no excuse for you not wishing me happy birthday this year, haha! You can do that here: @WeekendWitch.

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.