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.

Sad songs, happy days and so you win again

It’s always a pleasure to write a winning award application, as the clients I work with are awesome and I totally believe in the services they provide. So I can write from the heart, with passion and, of course, knowledge.

18485663_10208699780441789_90201385747404553_nNordens, the fabulous accountancy firm that I always recommend, won yet another gong this week: ICAEW’s Accountancy Firm of the Year (Essex). It’s the Chartered Institute of Accountants for England and Wales, so it’s a pretty big deal.  They’ve won it before, along with various other prestigious accolades, including the British Accountancy Awards Practice of the Year for London.

I joined the team for a black-tie dinner at Stock Brook Manor Country Club. There was no dancing, but a lot of champagne and surprisingly delicious pork belly – which I’ve always steered well clear of, but my son highly recommends – so I tried it, and now I’m a convert.

18556413_1460548417342827_1240640762771653331_nWe spent the following day on a trip to Ramsgate, a small Victorian seaside town in Kent. Another lovely meal followed our walk along the beach (with brollies). Again, there was no dancing, although I was one of the first up for the coach karaoke on the way back to London. Sharon and I have a long history of duets, so we sang a couple of ‘popular numbers’ together – not our usual repertoire of 1970’s cheerful hits: Billy, don’t be a hero and Seasons in the sun. (For some reason we always sang really sad songs about people dying!!?!)

Back at the office, Nordens have displayed their latest trophy along with their many other shiny, crystal awards. I don’t have an awards table in my own office. My recent CEO of the Year Award sits alongside my Inspirational Woman trophy on a bookcase filled with art books. My collection of social media and business books are nestled onto a shelf on another bookcase (you can get some of the them here) next to trusty dictionaries and thesauruses that were staple tools of my Plain English Business Writing before the Internet made everything available without the need to reach out even a glossily painted fingertip to grab a book.

IMG_0597The bookcases overlook a garden that’s disgracefully full of weeds. I’m slowly cultivating a beautiful outdoor space but it takes time. I’d really prefer a garden like the one I visited yesterday at Ayot St Lawrence’s Manor House. The Tudor property is my dream home, set in my dream garden – complete with azure pool (now I can swim!), tennis court (it’s been a long time), an orchard, vegetable gardens and the most exquisite displays of flowers all around.

When I got home I googled to find out who lives in such a glorious home.  Such a small world – the first people I spoke to about the garden said, “Oh yes, they’re our friends. They used to live next door!” Now, I’m not normally an envious person, and I don’t hashtag anything unless it’s in the appropriate place (Twitter, where relevant and useful, and Instagram, where expected) – however, just for today… #jealous.

This is the Terry Jacks song I was talking about earlier; please note that I didn’t choose the lyrics ‘too much wine and too much song’ even though they are probably more appropriate this week! “You gave me love and helped me find the sun., and every time that I was down you would always come around, and get my feet back on the ground.”

I can help you get your business feet on the ground, if that’s what you need – or I can help you spread your wings and fly. Without social media, who knows you’re there? (Are you there??) I’m here: @WeekendWitch.

 

Seasons in the sun: Writer: Brel, JR, Copyright: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Carlin America Inc.

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!

LinkedIn testimonials, aerodynamics and making a smash

I’m learning to swim! You may be shocked at this admission, but it’s true.  Some of my friends – mainly Gill and Mark, who have both rescued me from the sea in summers gone by, will be relieved. I made this decision on the spur of the moment, then two years later Sue called to recommend her friend David, a one-to-one teacher who gets in the water and stops your hips from sinking – even if you have just eaten a whole bag of Selfridges’ macarons.

I could kind-of swim a bit. I mean I could get across the width of a pool flapping gracelessly and with about as much technique as a handbag. So, my first lesson was a success. I floated aerodynamically, blew bubbles underwater, then performed a rudimentary kind of backstroke. David seemed pleased. I certainly was.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI learned my kind-of swimming in Florida when I was 15. Terrified of getting my face splashed, my cousin Harry taught me to close my eyes, put my face in the water and float like Marina. (Gerry Anderson’s marionette.  Possibly a subconscious purchase, I do have a very similar dress to hers: aquamarine, beaded and floaty. But then I also have a Star Trek uniform like Marina Sirtis, and I don’t much fancy the idea of intergalactic flight.) Anyway, that’s how I did it for the next 10 or so years, until I forgot and reverted to panicky sploshing around.

Dating a Masters swimmer and boat-owner changed all that. Last year, on a particularly wet and dismal afternoon at Rutland Water, muscles aching from clenching in fear and fingernails ragged as they smashed against the mast, I was convinced I was going to die. As the boat tipped 44 degrees and I prepared to make a splash, I became determined to conquer my fear of water.  Really, as any good Scorpion should!

Last week I was wined and dined on the 32nd floor of Canary Wharf.  Actually, that sentence borders on exaggeration and artistic licence; no red wine, I was driving later, But he drank Beaujolais, so that counts. We were discussing social media training sessions and the popularity of LinkedIn training.  I love working with business owners on a one-to-one basis to create outstanding profiles and show them how to maximise the benefits of LinkedIn for business.

The views are always great from Canary Wharf, and this time we had the added bonus of window cleaners rising up before us as they haphazardly wiped their cloths across the reinforced glass. That’s not a job for someone who doesn’t like heights. It confirmed my earlier assertion that I’m better in the water than I would be in the sky.

I can’t think of any songs about swimming, so in my mind I’ve been sifting through the many songs I know about boats. Although being terrified and getting soaked and frozen to the bone may be fun, I do love lazing about with a picnic watching them elegantly glide by. So Otis Redding’s lyrics may be more in keeping. “Sitting in the morning sun, I’ll be sitting when the evening’s done. Watching the ships roll in, then I’ll watch ‘em roll away again.”  And at least if I fall off the dock, I will be able to backstroke smoothly to shore.

I don’t know if my swimming teacher is on LinkedIn, but his website is full of excellent testimonials.  I’ve worked with so many people who are reluctant, scared or shy to ask for a testimonial, but it’s so incredibly important in these days of customers’ preoccupation with online reviews. If you’d like a ten minute chat to boost your confidence with regard to LinkedIn testimonials, give me a call on 020 8551 7077, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

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.