Renee

Incredible animals, a 19-course meal and fun on International Women’s Day

It’s two weeks to the Soldiering On Awards. This champagne-fuelled, glitzy evening will celebrate the best of inspirational people, charities and organisations within the military family. Someone decided that each finalist is worthy of public recognition and a shiny golden trophy, and the excitement to find out who has won is mounting.

Last week, two of my colleagues from the charity invited me to an amazing lunch – choosing the menu for the awards dinner! As you may already know from previous blogs (or from eating out with me) I have a healthy appetite.  But I have to admit that, on this occasion, the food actually beat me. We enjoyed the equivalent of 19 tasting courses – along with four glasses of wine!

That’s not a typo.  19 courses.  Six beautiful canapés, decorated with tiny pansies and the most delicate sprigs of herbs preceded a lunch of five hors d’oeuvres, five main courses and three desserts. Then petit fours and coffee.  (I had mint tea.) I posted a couple of pics on Facebook, and people commented of course, especially on the wonderful desserts. If you’re feeling jealous, don’t be! I felt totally ill afterwards 🙂

Then on Friday I was invited to a Women in Business event held by Newham Chamber of Commerce at the snazzy offices of Freshfields law firm in the city. This wonderful morning celebrated International Women’s Day (which was actually two days previous to that, but we’re worth celebrating every day, right?!) This year’s theme: Be Bold for Change.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingRather than eat the breakfast (which did look delicious but was too early for me; I had to get up at 5,30 to be there on time), I spent the first hour or so chatting with Anita Dobson. What a lovely lady! I’ve seen her act, obviously, and in real life she was a delight to spend time with. Both being eastenders, (you see what I did there?) we chatted about days gone by spent at the Ilford Palais, the perils of getting older, such as reading menus at arms’ length, and our shared love of cats.

 

This led on to a chat about animal charities, and I invited her to the Soldiering On Awards, as one category is for a remarkable animal that’s served in the military or worked as part of the military family. I hope she can make it.

Following the breakfast and networking, the morning was a panel discussion of eight super-interesting women hosted by newsreader Julie Etchingham. She’s an incredibly smart lady who flawlessly directed questions at the panel members for an hour.

While most people were impressed with me meeting celebrities, Gill was more excited that I’d also met the founder of her ‘Clubbercise’ class! Claire Burlison Green has built a global business from women exercising to disco music waving glow sticks in the air.  She brought a couple with her for demonstration purposes, but didn’t hand them out to the audience, sadly. It would have been fun on the underground at rush hour.

We didn’t have glow sticks back in the Ilford Palais days. All I remember now is the two of us in little blue corduroy dresses that barely covered our bums, a glass of water with ice and lemon, and a group that hopped on stage singing Let’s Dance when the DJ had his break. (I also remember not wearing coats as we preferred to save the 20p for the cloakroom – so walking home at 1am in the winter, freezing those exposed bottoms and discussing the geography homework we had to finish before going to bed…)

“Let’s sway, while colour lights up your face. Let’s sway – sway through the crowd to an empty space.” While Bowie was singing that – or the people in the 80s band were, we had no idea that 30 years later the crowds would have moved online and social media would fill all the empty spaces. Are you filling yours? I’m around this week if you need any help – here I am: @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

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.

Fairytale castles, foreign art galleries and the beauty of Facebook

I spent a few days in Prague last week, having fun with my boys, visiting all the main tourist attractions and eating copious amounts of traditional Czech food. Rich and heavy (the food); poorer and heavier (me, following the food!).

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingBetween wandering through the ancient castle grounds and sparkling Christmas markets, sipping thick hot chocolate and gulping hot blueberry wine, we met up with Jana, a lady we hadn’t seen for around 16 years. Jana was the boys’ au pair in the days when they were shorter than me, and we lost touch for a few years until Facebook brought us back together.

I spend much of my time now showing businesses how to capitalise on Facebook for commercial purposes, but it began as simply a social site and this is a wonderful example of its brilliance. Jana found me online a few years ago, and we’ve been able to see how our respective lives have moved on, share celebrations and little niceties, like wishing each other happy birthday.  Very minor things in the scheme of the universe, but they’re the tiny touches that add colour to our lives.

Before social media kicked in, we relied on letters and postcards to keep in touch and I, for one, was rubbish at all that.  I have a big tapestry bag in the loft filled with old letters, mainly from Marion and Gill, and a few from Mark in Bermuda. Each time I start a spring clean I open the bag but can’t bear to chuck the contents – they’re a reminder of a previous life, before social media, before kids, before mortgages.

The bag also contains many, many, many photos… There’s a big change. I rarely print off pics now, sharing instead of Facebook or keeping them locked into my phone. I shared loads of Prague photos – cobbled streets with ice cream coloured fairytale buildings, river scenes, art galleries and desserts. And photos of Jana, of course.

The art gallery was a bonus. I’m usually hard pushed to get the boys inside one without a huge fuss, bus this was Ben’s suggestion. Dali, Warhol and Mucha – whom I had mistakenly thought was Parisian. It was a wonderful mix.  One of my Facebook friends recently said, “Art brings people together. I am reminded that ‘Earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘Eh?” I love that! (Sorry – can’t remember who I stole it from, but thank you!)

Elton’s was the song of the holiday, even though I never did quite learn the correct lyrics.  “She packed my bags last night pre-flight; zero hour nine a.m. And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then.”

Whether you’re packing to go away or spending the holidays at home, I wish you a wonderful Christmas.  We’ll be around on social media right through the festive season, so if you need anything, you can find me here: @WeekendWitch.

Lovely Lisbon, not crashing and memories of Cumulonimbus

I nearly died this week.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I had the worst plane journey I’ve experienced in all my years of flying. Which is probably 45, so a long time.  Many years, many flights, many nail-marks etched into the skin of my neighbouring passengers’ palms.

I’d been enjoying the beautiful view… what’s the word? Skyscape? The landscape of the white fluffy clouds, daydreaming about angels romping across – or something equally as daft and non-work orientated.  Gill and I both have fond memories (and by that I mean we laugh uncontrollably) when we think about Mrs Holland, our school geography teacher with bows in her hair who always looked like she was dressed as a toffee apple. But she must have taught us well, as we both still remember the principles of arable farming in East Anglia, the reasons Fords chose Dagenham as its main production site and this – cloud formations.

So I was somewhat dismayed when the pretty cumulus clouds turned into angry cumulonimbus ones, then I slammed the shutter in horror as they, in turn, vanished into a thick grey fog. Two aborted landings in Lisbon resulted in the plane whooshing up at a 30 degree angle, terrifying all the passengers before the pilot calmly announced that we were diverting 200 miles to a different airport before we ran out of fuel. Or something to that effect.  I’d switched off by then. My mind had gone into overdrive wondering who would post my clients’ blogs if the plane crashed.

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

 

Anyway, we arrived safe and sound, if not a little wobblier and a lot later than planned.  Lisbon is the most wonderful city!  I’d never fancied visiting as I had, for some unknown reason, a preconception of it being a boring commercial town. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It’s beautiful, cultured and full of history.

Its cobbled streets wind uphill from the Tagus in intricate patterns around the edges of town – ‘the old parts,’ rising through the steep hills toward ancient castles and the palaces of kings and presidents. While in the centre, a wonderful city rose from the devastation of a 1755 earthquake, with grand squares and gridded lanes full of quaint tea houses and gastronomic restaurants, the obligatory gift shops and a surprising number of very reasonably priced shoe shops.

I spent one evening in a traditional Portuguese Fado restaurant. It was someone’s home, a tiny, cosy setting for the mournful, passionate performance of the operatic-like singers and musicians.  It was great fun, although they dimmed the lights and I couldn’t see what I was eating! More fun was the electric tuk-tuk that took us back to our hotel one afternoon, shrieking with laughter as the little electric vehicle flew up the hills at 30mph and we clung on to each other for dear life.

In the space of four days we visited two palaces, a 1000 year old castle, the Basilica, the Time Out food market (twice!) the Tower, a sightseeing Victorian lift, the coach museum (less nerdy than it sounds), a wonderful gallery with an additional philanthropist’s private collection, the oldest café in Lisbon (1782), the most famous patisserie with its secret monastic recipe dating from 1837 and too many lovely restaurants to remember!  But the monastery was closed and I ran out of time to visit the Cathedral or ride the trams, so I need to go back…. (I hope Father Christmas is reading this.)

When I’m on a difficult plane ride the comforting words of Godley and Creme tend to spring to mind. ‘The world was spinning like a ball, and then it wasn’t there at all. And as my heart began to fall…’ That’s my favourite 10CC song, by the way – it hasn’t put me off flying.

And in answer to my earlier question, if my plane had nosedived into the cobbled streets or ancient woodland, Marion would have posted our clients’ blogs.  Anyway, all’s well that ends well and we’re free to spin like balls, if we like, knowing that there’s always someone to set us straight again when needed. We can help if your business needs to be set on a fresh, straight social media marketing path. Ask me here: @WeekendWitch. (Or fly me!)

Landmarks, cocktails and hidden Parisian pleasure

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingGill and I like to hop around Europe every October to mark the end of sunny summer, the start of a crisp autumn, and our birthdays. This year, we chose the close proximity of Paris for our mini holiday – the aforementioned hop, plus a skip and a jump, a quick ride on Eurostar and there we were, in the city of love, culture and impressionist art.

If either Philip or Alison are reading this blog, stop now! You don’t need to know what follows…

Having spent the first evening dining in Saint Germain, the quintessentially Parisian quarter close to our hotel on Rive Gauche, we popped in to a gorgeous patisserie and chocolatier to pick up some gifts. Each having friends who love salted caramel, we bought some of the gooey stuff, beautifully presented in glass gift jars with tiny silver spoons. A couple of enormous gift bags later, satisfied with our culinary purchases, we had the sparkling idea of climbing to the top of the Eiffle Tower for a midnight hot chocolate while the on-the-hour lights glittered around us.

Throughout Paris, security is comfortingly visible. Gendarmes parade the streets with their Ruger (not so) Mini rifles clearly at the ready, and every public building requires an airport-style security check. I’ve been stopped at the airport before when an underwired bra has made a spectacle of itself, but entering a tourist attraction is generally unremarkable.  Not this time though.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” enquired the bemused security guard holding up the little jars, obviously hoping for the final hour of her night shift to pass without complication.

“Salted caramel sauce, obviously…”

“Hmmmmmm. Non.”

Despite our protestations, the sticky caramel intended for ice cream embellishment was a horrible security threat to the French capital, and there was no way we were being allowed onto the landmark with the scary sauces.  So what to do? We’d travelled there by taxi, it was close to midnight and we really wanted to go up.  I’m not sure now whose idea it was to hide the caramel, but that’s what we decided to do.

Laughingly, we bypassed the many street traders hawking their neon-flashing wares and walked to the darkness of some nearby bushes, growing inconspicuously between street lamps and men with ‘best price selfie-sticks.’ Glancing around to see if we were being watched, we chucked the small jars under a bush and hoped for the best.  Would they still be there when we returned? (We certainly didn’t share that information on Facebook.)

The Tower is amazing at night, with spectacular views across the city. And when we descended an hour later, we found, to our surprise and intense pleasure…. The two jars still lying beneath the bush. Not sure whether any tramps had peed on them, or drug dealers injected them with any sort of illegal substances, but we took the chance that they hadn’t and chose to ignore all possibilities of salted caramel sabotage. Nice gifts, eh?!

The holiday was wonderful, with lots of lovely French cuisine, hot chocolate, cocktails that I think cost more than Eurostar, open top bus rides, a scenic cruise, three art galleries, three churches (where I lit candles for little Joey – and thank you to everyone who sent condolences; very much appreciated). We also managed to visit all the major tourist attractions plus a couple of beautiful lesser-known ones.

Now it’s back to work in still-sunny (at the time of writing!) Angleterre, creating client blogs, ensuring people’s social media accounts are well managed and pumpkin carving.

The only French song I can think of right now is the possibly-inappropriate Lady Marmalade… Oh, oh – as I typed that another tune popped into my head!! “Flash is fast, flash is cool, Francois sais pas, Flashe no deux.” Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but I’m still in holiday mode.

Enjoy your Halloween week! And don’t forget I’m always happy to retweet your scary pics: @WeekendWitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate, time management, a charity ball and more chocolate

As you may have guessed, chocolate features quite heavily in my life.  It influences my diet, my holidays and my relationships. (Yes, really!) So an afternoon at the London Chocolate Fair was really quite mind blowing for me.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingFrom tiny chocolatiers starting out on the road to business growth with delicious samples at every turn, to a Dubai firm whose stand resembled a Bond Street jewellers, with beautiful chocolates perfectly set out in glass cabinets guarded by a surly looking salesman (?).  I can only describe him as an unapproachable security attendant charged with actively not encouraging prospective customers to taste his wares, if you know what I mean.

Dating a fellow chocolaholic, it was inevitable that we would enjoy the exhibition at London’s Olympia, and we came away with a veritable selection of truffles, water truffles, chocolate-covered fruits, liquid-filled chocolates, dark chocolates, milk chocolates, pralines, ganache and hot chocolate. I didn’t even care that he shoved a creamy chocolate whip thing in my face, smudging my make up and leaving me sticky. Didn’t care…

14647284_10154626549846255_554661864_oI started out at the exhibition pretty sleepy, having fallen asleep after 2.30am following a charity ball on Friday night. My accountants – Nordens – I’m sure I’ve recommended them to you before – were invited by the Institute of Chartered Accountants to raise money for a hospice in Essex. Following a (non-chocolate themed) dinner, we played at the casino tables set up around the room, and danced to a selection of immortal 80s tunes. It was great fun, and thank you to the tea for inviting me.

I skipped last week’s blog.  The Jewish holidays and all the cooking and entertaining that entailed meant I had to reapportion my time.  That sentence originally said ‘ran out of time’ but clearly that’s not good coming from someone who trains businesses in time management! But it’s true.  I was away at picturesque Rutland Water the previous weekend, then cooking for several large dinner parties, plus baking six cakes and carrying out various 121 social media workshops all over London. Something had to give.

14717098_10154620381771255_4381957366363002620_nTwo of the cakes were for the accountancy team – by request, a large double layer chocolate cake, embellished with galaxy counters, flake, chocolate buttons and maltesers, and a big squidgy carrot cake.  As it turned out, this was squidgier than planned, as a member of the team that had helpfully offered to carry it into the office, sadly… er… d…r…o..p…p…e…d… it, upside down and with a loud yelp onto the pavement. Still, people ate it, gravel, fag ends, dog poo and all…  (Well, hopefully not, we went with the three second rule, even though it took a bit longer than three secs to scrape it off the kerb.) All’s well that ends well though, as everyone is still alive today…

I’m typing this in the lobby of the Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch.  I often come to this trendy space to work as the wifi is good, the atmosphere is buzzing and the hot chocolate is rich and creamy.

This is not one of the 80s tracks played on Friday, but Gill and I played it an awful lot back then, and it’s probably more relevant today. “You know very well what you are: you’re my sugar thing, my chocolate star. I’ve had a few, but not that many… But you’re the only love that gives me good and plenty.”

If you need to find more time to eat your chocolate stars, or to grow your business in a more friendly and sociable way, email me for info on 121 training sessions being held in London between now and Christmas. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.