Renee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No social media strategy, pushing boundaries and taking a giant leap

The Isle of Mull is a beautiful island off the west coast of Scotland. In fact, beautiful is an understatement.  I’ve been to various Caribbean islands with foamy waves atop azure seas, and walked the rugged Cornish coastline in all weathers, yet the pure, unspoilt loveliness of Mull is unrivalled.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingMarion and I spent last weekend there – supposedly to work on client social media strategies, but, in reality, to clear our minds (without being overly-mindful), eat fresh seafood and meet interesting people over a glass (or two) of red wine.

We trekked through hilltop forests filled with giant rhododendron bushes and stunning waterfalls, drove across vast areas of prehistoric landscape and stepped carefully across ancient white beaches that make the Bahamas seem dull – teeming with birds that she can identify and I had to squint to see.

One of the most impressive people we met was a young woman working in the castle giftshop. She and her new husband gave up high pressured jobs in London to buy a motorhome, and they travel around the country stopping wherever they fancy. They’re in Mull for the summer, as they love its beauty and calmness – although that may change once the influx of tourists hits in high season. They’ve pitched up in someone’s garden and live a simple life – working at the castle while enjoying a life that’s free from reliance on possessions and material goods.

Talk about a leap and a half. It was a brave and bold move, but the opportunity arose and they grabbed it with twenty fingers. I admire that. (You’re also brave if you’re running a business without a social media strategy! Maybe not so bold though…)

Back in London, I spent an afternoon at the Tate Modern, catching up with an old friend for lunch then laughing together at Wolfgang Tillman’s photographic exhibition.  I have to admit that it wasn’t my favourite art display, although kudos to him for achieving a glittering career that has led him to one of the foremost galleries in the world. The contemporary works are described as an exhibition that “pushes the boundaries.” Hmmm…

Another cultural event this week also almost pushed boundaries…. A trip to the theatre to see The Girls, Gary Barlow’s musical based on the Calendar Girls’ story: the WI ladies who stripped naked for a charity calendar. It was quite enjoyable, although a bunch of 60-something women stripping off on stage is a bit ‘different.’ That story was fantastic though – the real one, I mean. Eleven members of the Women’s Institute who normally displayed flowers, cakes and pots of home-made jam, getting their kits off to raise money.  It worked – they have successfully raised over £5million for leukaemia research!

I was almost tempted to end this blog with ‘Calendar Girl’ lyrics, and I’m pretty sure as I flicked through the Evening Standard last week it said Neil Sedaka is doing another concert – but no. It’s too much. Anyway, many people seem to think the following lyrics were written about The Isle of Mull, but they weren’t.  They were written about another (apparently) gorgeous place, by Paul McCartney (the one Gill and I met, but that’s another story in another blog).

“Smiles in the sunshine and tears in the rain still take me back where my memories remain. Flickering embers go higher and higher.” If your business is a bit of a flickering ember and you’d like to fan the flame, give me a call to chat about how social media marketing can help. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

PS I know someone will email me to say it’s 16 fingers and four thumbs!

Portrait painting, traditional dining and a night at the ballet. (A contemporary cultured week!)

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who got in touch regarding my CEO of the Year award.  I really appreciated the emails, messages on social media and texts from friends. It was lovely of you, and I hope I’ve replied to everyone.

I’m back at art class in fits and starts this term.  Well, not term as it’s not a school; the studio is a trendy communal living space above a pub, twinkling with fairy lights, interesting with strange and unusual objet d’art and lively with a bunny hopping about. But anyway, since Ed got back from his travels I’ve had various things on a Wednesday to prevent me going.  This week Jon is over from San Diego so I’ll be missing my creative fix again.

To avoid artistic withdrawal, I’m going to the final heat of the Portrait Artist of the Year competition on Thursday.  It’s being held at the Wallace Collection, a beautiful little art gallery and museum close to Bond Street. I popped in there last week to see the artists in one of the early heats. The celebrity models sat for four hours in poses that were about as relaxed as you can get for a rigid afternoon, fully clothed (unlike my Wednesday art class) and keeping their eyes fixed zombie-like on a ‘spot in the distance.’

Robert Bathurst sort-of smiled at me though, probably because I was staring. I loved him in Cold Feet – might have hung around to say hello if I’d been on my own and in less of a rush to get home to eat my first Easter egg.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOn Thursday I pushed the cultural boat across a foaming wave and went to the ballet. Sadler’s Wells is the home of British dance, so I imaged beautiful ballerinas in rose-coloured tutus pirouetting across the stage. I went with someone who has dated several ballerinas in the past, so I think he was hoping for that too.  But it wasn’t.

Matthew Bourne, the choreographer, is a master contemporary storyteller in the ballet genre.  The dancing and portrayals were amusing and (whispers…) a bit strange.  The website described it as “Yearning pas de deuxs and pastoral clog-dances feature in Town and Country’s post-war vignettes.” And, “Take a trip to Gay Paree with The Infernal Galop, as all the glorious clichés of 30s and 40s Paris are paraded (and can-canned) across the stage.” It was fun.  It was different, but it didn’t make me want to put on my pastel pink silk ballet shoes – although I did actually wear them yesterday for driving (as flip flops are dangerous) so maybe that was a subconscious fashion choice.

The ‘town and country’ sketches featured people dressed as cows (at least, I think they were cows!).  This image links nicely to Saturday night’s dinner at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. It owns its own farm where meat is cultivated for diners’ enjoyment, and we wolfed our way through an enormous roast beef platter – finished on Sunday by a friendly dog named Digby who absolutely refused to give up his cordon bleu bone.

I do love a bit of history, and Rules’ traditional dining rooms are decorated much as they would have been back in 1798. Throughout its 220-year heritage, the tables here have been crowded with writers, artists and actors. Charles Dickens and H G Wells were regulars, and no doubt a ballet dancer or two.  Maybe even Robert Bathhurst, but that’s just a guess.

I visited Elton John’s photography collection recently at the Tate Modern.  It’s a cool, inspired assembly of classic modernist work that he’s amassed over the past few decades.  I’m just mentioning this because I could only think of Abba’s song about Nina Pretty Ballerina this morning, so I googled – and Elton popped up.  I’d forgotten this song, but it’s quite lovely. “Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man. Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand.”

Tiny dancer, short week, long Pimms. Enjoy your Easter, Passover, long weekend – and keep in touch: @WeekendWitch.

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..

Inspiration, cakes in Shoreditch and champagne with the man who woke me every day

Driving to the Park Plaza for Friday night’s Soldiering On Awards was a poignant experience.  Sadly, roadside floral tributes have become commonplace, but the crowds spilling out around Westminster Square were eerily quiet as they tiptoed over bouquets and read tribute cards while some, strangely, photographed them.

There was nothing quiet at the awards though! At the Park Plaza on the far side of Westminster Bridge cheering and clapping were the order of the day as over 500 people gathered to celebrate the Soldiering On Awards, recognising the achievements of men, women – and some incredible animals – who have been seriously injured in military service. These winners, in fact all the finalists that were gathered to be honoured there, have gone on to inspire others and create excellence from their tragedies.

C702WVNXwAABuVSIt’s unthinkable. Most of us are lucky enough to never suffer life-changing experiences and we simply can’t imagine what these people have been through, but there was nothing miserable or depressing in that room.  It was empowering.

My highlight of the evening was meeting Mike Read, the DJ whose captivating voice woke me every morning through college, my job in fashion and right up until I broke my clock radio. We spent half an hour chatting about this and that, he got me champagne, he said he couldn’t dance with me later as he hasn’t had dancing lessons – I told him I’m having swimming lessons, not that that was relevant.

17498727_10155169751331255_8419109128308697501_nAnyway, as far removed as most of us are (hopefully forever) from catastrophic injury, many of us do suffer from debilitating or unrelenting illnesses and that can be as difficult emotionally and physically as an unprovoked wound.  You may already know that I work with the Stroke Association to raise awareness of childhood stroke – a cruel and devastating trauma that can change the lives of a baby, child, teenager – and their families, often irrevocably.

I won’t harp on about that today – many of you have read my son Oli’s story, and it’s one that I’m eternally grateful turned out okay for him. I’m just mentioning it because, as I’m typing this, I’m also preparing for a meeting at the Stroke Association’s head office near Shoreditch. (Multitasking at its best – also eating chocolate and keeping one eye on Homeland.)

17555560_10155176863146255_8416856_nI’ll be going from there to visit clients in Hoxton (close to the hotel where my website was hacked!) to chat about Instagram and blogging. I’ve been promised hot chocolate and cake in a Hoxton café, so that will be nice! Although I have to admit I’m a bit caked out after last week’s Bake Off at my client and accountants in Woodford.  Nordens holds this competition annually for the team to bring in their delicious home-made creations – and guess who was a judge? Yes, me!! Well I do have rather a lot of experience eating cake.  Congratulations to Cydney who won with a lovely light lemon drizzle cake topped with mini Easter eggs.

17554955_10155176858516255_58716285_nWhich reminds me, my lovely friends at Kennards Artisan Chocolates (Desire4Food) created a huge Easter egg that was auctioned off at the Soldiering On Awards for a nice few hundred pounds.  (I don’t know the exact amount, but sadly I was outbid.) Massive thanks to them for their unswerving generosity and support.  They’re somewhere around Shoreditch today too, in a pop up shop – so I’ll pop up to visit them while I’m in town.  If you’re around there too check out their Facebook page and join me for a pre-Easter chocolatey treat!

Mike Read’s career has spanned over 40 years as a DJ, writer, journalist, TV presenter, songwriter and much, much more.  For my generation, there’s one song that we remember vividly as zooming to the top of the charts after he banned it from Radio 1’s playlist! (Coincidentally, Holly Johnson, who wrote it, bought a Swarovski diamanté brooch that Joan and I had selected for the Principles stores when I worked in fashion buying. I’d probably listened to Mike that very morning.) As Mr Johnson says, “Shoot it in the right direction, make making it your intention. Live those dreams, scheme those schemes; hit me, hit me, hit me with those laser beams.”

If you intend giving your business a quick blast in the right direction, feel free to call me for advice – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Arts memberships, soaring doves and David Hockney’s bum

Being a member of the Tate is so wonderful when a major exhibition hits town and tickets sell out in seconds.  The Guardian reported that the Hockney exhibit sold over 20,000 tickets before it opened, with some visitors having to wait until 9pm for their chance to see the eclectic collection of artworks. I later heard is was completely sold out, but I’m not sure if this is true.

Anyway, early or late, it’s worth it. I chose to go late, simply because it was the only chance I had to get there during its first week of opening.  And that choice is one of the beauties of membership; I can just walk in without pre-booking.  The only problem with late night gallery viewing is that the café was closed, but hey-ho, sometimes you have to forego your cream bun in the name of art.

I was familiar with the most well-known pieces of course – but I had no idea his styles spanned different genres. The retrospective begins with Hockney’s early works from the 60’s, covering six decades of rich, vibrant paintings and installations, right up to the pieces that blew me away: his iPad and iPhone creations!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingNow I’m trying that, but it’s not working out. I think you need time to get the hang of it – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I had a sudden splurge of creativity to get out of my system this week, so I hijacked an easel that I’d bought for Ben several Christmases ago and which has remained neatly in its box, and made a commitment to paint some celebrities. I need my art class to resume – I miss it. (And no, before anyone comments I don’t mean the naked men!!)

PS – post script – written after I thought I’d finished but worth adding in… We caught the end of a documentary about Hockney on BBC4 late on Sunday night. Within two minutes of hearing him discuss something art-related, we saw the great man strip naked and run with everything dangling into an azure-tiled shower cubicle with a skylight!  If I thought I’d seen all of David Hockney beforehand, I certainly have seen it all now!

On a more sobering thought… Our family lost a wonderful lady recently, and Nanna Joyce was buried last week in a lovely spot in London.  At her graveside, Carol and Denise released two white doves that flew in perfect unison, soaring high above us as the sun crept out to cast a warm shadow over the mourners.  The colour theme was lilac and purple, so today’s lyrics seemed an obvious choice.

“Dream if you can a courtyard; an ocean of violets in bloom. Animals strike curious poses – they feel the heat, the heat between me and you.”

I’ve shed tears for Nanna Joyce, and I’ve shed tears for Prince. But memories are always beautiful. That’s why the Facebook feature of reminding you of memories from past years is so popular. Do you share yours? If you need help to do so, ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Being too cute, poetry workshops and the perils of conference calling

I didn’t like Donny Osmond back in the day. His cutesy image irritated me, even before I knew the difference between cute and sexy. I didn’t particularly like his voice – or his songs and, anyway, I was a firm David Cassidy girl and you couldn’t be both! Gill, on the other hand, has loved him since she was about five, so when tickets went on sale for his London show I snapped them up.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnd now, I have to admit, this man is a legend in his own time.  Fifty years in show business and not a scuff mark on him. No one dishes the dirt because there is none to be dished.  He is a true showman and, it appears, a gentleman.  The concert was fab and I’ve finally exonerated myself after several doghouse years as a result of the ER fiasco. I won’t bore you with that story now, you may have already heard it, but Gillian will be nodding at this point. (Although the Toblerone issue is now pending…)

One thing that made me laugh this week was the story of a man (who shall remain nameless) who took part in a conference call while working from home. The call was dragging on, so he took his iPad into the loo (multi-tasking!) – quite forgetting that it was an open-mike call!! I’m laughing again as I’m typing.  Embarrassing!!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingHuge thanks to everyone who come along to the opening night of Traditions, at the Pavilion Art Gallery in Mile End. It’s another fantastic exhibition curated by Katja of Art Catcher, and I met some incredibly talented and creative people. As a result, I’ve been asked if I’ll run a poetry workshop. I love that! It makes a nice change from social media workshops, although I love those too.

Poetry workshops give people space to explore their creativity away from the workplace, but without venturing too deeply into the artistic zone – ie: no mess. It allows you to dig deep into your soul, or simply express what’s on your mind in an inspired environment. I’m looking forward to that!

I don’t know the Osmond songs well, but I do like this one, and the final lyrics are so reminiscent of business days gone by that, in the context of my social media work it’s almost funny. “I’m just a little old-fashioned; it takes more than physical attraction. My initial reaction is, honey, give me love… Not a facsimile of.”

If you’re interested in exploring your inner depths through a poetry session (or business depths through the usual social media ones), give me a call on the number at the top of the page, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.
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That song wasn’t actually written by The Osmonds, but by Jones Jr, David H / Brown Jr, Wade / Bristol, Johnny William

Tradition, looking up and Morgan vs Farage: an editor’s delight

I’m writing this blog at the National Gallery, one of my favourite London haunts. Aside from the fabulous collection of artworks, obviously – including my number one painting – the actual building is an architectural delight with beautifully mosaic floors and splendid arched and domed ceilings that I’m sure many people miss because we don’t look up enough. Also, the café is very lovely with an array of cakes immediately as you enter, always a winner as far as I’m concerned. The wifi’s good too, and the leather couches situated all along the galleries are comfortable and perfect for sitting, gazing, people-watching, reading, tweeting or blogging! One man nearby is asleep. He has earphones in but his mouth is drooped open. He’s not dribbling, fortunately.

16443476_10154998990331255_1731324406_n (1)I came here for a meeting, then spent a bit of time wandering around until I settled in this nice spot. It’s a wonderful gallery – but then so is the much smaller, teeny little gallery where I’ll be exhibiting my latest poem from Thursday (until the 19th).  I’d love to exhibit somewhere like this, of course, but the Mile End Art Pavilion is equally as exciting. And I’m making the cakes on Thursday – which I’m sharing for free if you’re able to pop along.

traditions-poster-3_orig (1)They’re traditional Jewish honey cakes, in line with the nature of the exhibition – which is called Traditions – and my poetry, which is about traditional Jewish food.  Ironic really, as I’m not kosher and bacon and prawns form the backbone of my diet.  No, that’s not quite true – chocolate does that, so maybe bacon is a rib – if you see where I’m going with this train of thought.

Anyway, it’s always an honour to be included with this illustrious group of artists and the show will be fantastic, so please do come along if you’re free on Feb 2nd, between 6.30 and 8.30pm. (Here’s my poem if you’d prefer to read it online, without the cake.)

Keeping with this traditions theme, I visited the Jewish museum for the first time this week.  It’s a remarkable place in the heart of Camden, tracing Jewish history in the UK from 1066 to present day. I thought I knew a fair bit about the religion, but I picked up some interesting facts, quirky trivia and a few disturbing revelations that reflect a notable parallel to today’s immigration issues.  Being a light-hearted blog I won’t discuss them here but, if you’re in London with a couple of hours to spare, the museum is definitely worth a visit. And if you’re wondering what the parallels might be, here’s a clue…

On Friday night, Gill and I went to the TV studios on Southbank to watch Piers Morgan (who we like) interview Nigel Farage (who we don’t). It was a hell of an interview. It went an hour overtime – giving three hours of solid chat-time for a 42-minute show. The meaty topics didn’t begin until almost two hours had passed, and we believe it was to ensure ITV had enough material to make a programme if Mr F got uppity and walked out when the questions began that he refused to answer. Philip and Hayley think that’s nonsense; for one thing, whatever his views and politics, he is a professional and wouldn’t have an on-air tantrum – and for another, the producer probably planned it that way.  Whatever, it’s going to be very interesting to see how they edit the show, which is being broadcast within the next three weeks.

The interview covered a lot of personal stuff – outweighing political discussion 2:1 and showing the more human side of the man.  I felt sympathy at times with regard to personal trauma and health issues, and I respect his determination to keep his family clear of politics and paparazzi; but my overall opinion didn’t change.  One thing impressed me though – he knows the difference between less and fewer!

As the interview overran we had no time for dinner before heading home.  Feeling hungry often makes me think of this song – it used to be one of my favourite love songs, in a weird kind of way. It’s amusing, although you can’t tell that from the lyrics I’ve chosen. Watch the video on Pinterest for a greater insight into the Jewish tradition of food and dating! “Four in the morning. (What’ll you have?) Well, I’m in the mood for a corned beef on rye. With a tomato and some coleslaw on the side.” See, nothing romantic there but it’s Dean Friedman at his best.

Tweeting about dinner isn’t a great business move unless you’re an eaterie or food critic.  If you’d like advice on what’s appropriate and effective to tweet for your own business, give me a call on 020 8551 7077. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Social media marketing strategies, getting rusty and choo choo loo

I hadn’t planned to write about my toilet adventures, but several people have messaged me following my recent Facebook post to say it was the funniest story they’d heard and that I should blog about it. So much for writing a refined, sophisticated blog then….

I published the story as a helpful tip of the day: when travelling on a train, if you need to use the loo don’t hang a heavy bag on the coat hook on the back of the door. Yes, this is advice based on experience… The train jerked, the bag swung, it knocked the lock, the lock opened… a man walked in! I’m not sure which of us shrieked louder but he beat a hasty retreat.

Under the circumstances, I think he probably should have married me. That would have been the rule in the days of Seven brides for seven brothers, for sure.

I was on my way to Leamington Spa to meet with some super clients.  We had lunch in a hotel on the outskirts of town then chatted about their social media marketing strategy for 2017.  We’re into the third week of the new year now, yet many people I’ve spoken to haven’t defined their goals for this year, or the path they intend to take to score them. I have. I just keep getting a bit distracted from stepping onto that path.

One of my ongoing personal goals is to travel more, and there are hundreds of wonderful places in the UK that I haven’t seen.  So this weekend we started with Bristol, a dynamic city with an over-abundance of wonderful places to eat, enmeshed in culture, arts and the kind of lovely architecture that can keep me busy for hours, just staring at Corinthian columns and great feats of engineering.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingTwo of these fell within the boundaries of our radar, both brainchildren of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – one of the few British engineers I remember learning about in school.  Firstly, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is a massive structure elegantly spanning the Avon.  It’s jaw-droppingly high and bounces slightly as cars cross. On one side is an interesting visitors’ centre, where we learned that Brunel won a competition to design the bridge at just 24 years old.  He certainly had the entrepreneurial spirit.  Sadly, he didn’t live to see it completed due to delays and funding, plus his untimely death from a stroke,

We also visited his masterpiece of the seas: the SS Great Britain, the former passenger steamship that is now a museum. It’s being preserved and restored, with the hull ensconced in a giant dehumidification chamber within a dry dock – no one will be smashing the glass ceiling here. Conservation work is taking place to control the rust corrosion; I know a bit about this as Hayley is doing similar work on the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s recovered warship. Her PhD focuses on ways to control rust in order to save historical artefacts and she’s working specifically on iron objects from the Tudor ship.

Generally, if we leave things, they rust, rot, decay, fall apart and fail to serve their purpose. This is also true of social media in business. Constant care is needed to ensure fresh and healthy ongoing marketing – I’d be happy to help if you’re not sure which way to steer yours.

Within the last two months I’ve been on a plane, a train (as you now know!) and within the next two I’ll be going on a boat (not in the dry dock – across the sea). Bacharach and David put these appropriate words on Dionne Warwick’s lips: ‘Trains and boats and planes are passing by, they mean a trip to Paris or Rome for someone else but not for me. The trains and boats and planes took you away, away from me.’ Actually, they’re not appropriate lyrics at all!! They’re miserable! The tune’s nice though.

In these days of social media no one gets taken away; in the business world, everyone is just a few clicks closer. And how wonderful is that?!!  If you’d like me to show you how to expand and shrink your world at the same time, give me a call – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Resilience, optimism and decoding the enemy

During the war, Bletchley Park was the workplace of 10,000 people. Eagerly battling away 24 hours a day to decode enemy messages, these people worked under such a heavy blanket of secrecy that many of them were unaware of the overall strategy, focusing only on their own tiny, yet hugely important, part of it.

Communication took place via teams of bike riders scooting around the countryside, and carrier pigeons – some of whom received awards after the war for their bravery. The birds, I mean. Imagine how social media would have affected that war. We take our communication streams for granted today – phone, text, email, Facebook, messenger, Twitter, Viber, Whatsapp – to name just a handful of the most common channels we rely on to get our messages across quickly and accurately.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIf you’re any sort of code-breaking lover (crosswords, Sudoku, the Mastermind game that we played as kids) you must visit Bletchley.  Its rich history and the vivid way its story is told make for a wonderful day out. In fact, I’m going back. We spent so long in the two cafés that we ran out of time to see the whole museum properly. (I’m standing on the stone where Churchill congratulated the Bletchley staff!)
 

 

Alan Turing was an incredibly talented man who suffered a tragic end. He is credited with skills that not only led to the war ending two years early, saving thousands of lives, but as being the father of the computer as we know it. He took artificial intelligence to a higher level than most of us can begin to comprehend, even today in our advanced technological society, decades before anyone could imagine the influence computing would have on our lives.

Coincidentally continuing the war theme, we watched a short documentary that evening about a wonderful pianist named Alice Herz-Sommer, the last survivor of the Holocaust. She died two years ago, aged 110 – and it’s been some while since someone has made me speechless with admiration. This lady was filmed at the age of 106, playing the piano and socialising with her friends. She had the most cheerful, life affirming demeanour and an amazing warmth. She bore no grudge against those who had devastated her family and placed her in the vile ‘town’ of Terezin, a concentration camp where her life was saved simply by her ability to play the piano in an orchestra created for the nazi’s entertainment.

The boys and I heard about Terezin during our recent tour of Prague’s Jewish Quarter, but our short trip left no time to visit the horrific site.  We saw the misery, despair and curtailed legacy in the Synagogue museums though. Alice Herz-Sommer lived an unthinkable life during the war years, yet her beautiful spirit, resilience and optimism could not be broken.  She’s quoted on Wikipedia as saying, “I look at the good… When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive.” It’s so true.

Sometime back in the 80s, long before we’d met, Philip was invited to photograph a breath-taking event.  Survivors of Terezin’s orchestra gathered at Canterbury Cathedral to be reunited for the first time since the concentration camp’s liberation. He says the atmosphere was electric, tangible – and never to be forgotten. Reports I’ve since read say the concert did not dwell on misery, oppression and death, but on hope, optimism and survival. Not a bad life plan, by anyone’s standards.

Rumours is my all-time favourite album, and this seemed like a positive end to a blog that details hope and personal endurance: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here. It’ll be even better than before; yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” Gone but not forgotten.