Renee

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.

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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.

LinkedIn at the Tate, an Olympic torch-bearer and Prosecco in a menswear shop

So the Olympics have kicked off!  As you know I’m not a sporty person, although over the past few months I’ve sailed (kind of), swum (kind of), wobbled along on a bike and strolled through forests and parkland – anywhere that promises the adrenaline thrill of a cream cake and a hot chocolate at the end of the journey. I’m actually writing this blog in the sunshine outside Konditor and Cook at Spitalfields, enjoying an apricot and honey cheesecake crumble while I wait for a networking event to start at 6pm.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingOne thing that has drawn me to paying attention to this year’s Olympics was the fact that my friend and business associate Dieneke was a torch-bearer!  I logged on to Facebook one morning, stunned to see her smiling face holding the torch aloft as she ran through the streets of Rio. She’s an inspirational woman for various reasons and quite deserving of the honour.

We worked together a couple of years ago on a special project.  Dieneke ran a competition for the 1000 or so British designers that she supports through her website, Hidden Art.  Mark and I had the privilege of delivering 121 workshops to the three winners – his on business strategy and mine on social media marketing. The whole thing was great fun. The formula was similar to the workshops I’ve been providing this month to growth businesses in the city, although these focused more on professional profiles on LinkedIn than general social media.

One of my favourite 121 sessions this week was with a lady called Melissa that I worked with in the Tate Modern members’ room.  It’s a brilliant location to meet; the view’s amazing and the cakes are delicious.  After our session on social media marketing we called in to the gallery to view the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective.  It’s wonderful – if you get a chance you should go.  Her landscape paintings have an ethereal quality, and the flowers for which she’s famous are highly stylised and bold, yet also beautiful, swirly and delicate.

And my favourite non-work activity this week was 30 minutes of Jesus Christ Superstar at the gorgeous Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. The heavens opened that day, but Philip had the good sense to take sailing gear, so we dressed hysterically in muddy waterproofs and watched the cast battle against the elements to entertain as best they could. Consummate professionals, they sang and danced with their clothes clinging to them like a wet t shirt competition in the 80s, rain pouring down their faces. The show was called off as it became a danger for them to perform, so hopefully we’ll be luckier with the weather when we return next week.

Jesus has been topical this week, as I’ve prepared my poetry for the upcoming ‘100 Madonna’ exhibition, which will be held from 5 – 18 September at the Crypt Gallery in Euston.  More info to follow in due course but, if you like art exhibitions, please diarise this one – it’s going to be fab!

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSince writing all that, I’ve been to the networking evening – it was brilliant.  Michelle Peters, a business instructor for lawyers and other professionals, arranged it with Oscar Bencivenga, owner of a gorgeous Italian menswear store in Spitalfields. (I love the photo of the Bencivenga family almost as much as the fabulous clothes.) I’ll be returning with the boys – although I’m guessing there won’t be Prosecco and canapés during the working day.  Could be wrong though; there’s a DJ on Friday nights during late opening hours, as the area’s buzzing and customers call in after work.

Not sure if that DJ plays this, but I still do… “He’s searching, she’s showing; see him held in a deep deep spell, he knows she’s glowing. I can find within my mind a way to go… I can look deep into your light and shout ‘Hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me, hold me.”  If you’re looking within your mind for a way to go with your business – and that way is forward, let’s chat about how social media can help you get there. You can hold on to clients whilst you meet new ones!  Call me to find out more, or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Political hair, smashing windows and LinkedIn for on-line dating

I was wondering why all the key female players in world politics have the same haircut?  I posed the question on Facebook, yet no one seems to know.  This band of older women with their blondish bobs are reminiscent of Joanna Lumley’s 70s ‘Purdey’ cut mixed with a bit of Princess Diana then shaken up with the Midwich Cuckoos – also known as Village of the Damned…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingEnough said.  At least the news seems to have veered away from how they look and focus more on what they’re doing, or planning to do.

There’s also more stuff in the news about the dangers of online dating.  Of course there’s a risk to meeting a stranger that you’ve only spoken to by email – but it’s no more than meeting someone in a bar.  I met my boyfriend on a dating site and, after nine months, he still seems relatively normal. Loves chocolate, owns dogs (good judges of character), dislikes cats (well it would be weird if he had no faults), has loads of friends, a lovely home and a very nice mum.

In my youth I was far more slapdash when it came to dating.  Gill and I did some things we wouldn’t dream of telling you about now, including getting into some pretty close scrapes.  We were actually very stupid teenagers for two fairly clever girls.  One time, we met two boys at the Ilford Palais and they offered to take us to the White Bear pub where one of them lived for a late night hot chocolate.  We drove through country lanes with a noticeable absence of properties until we came to said pub, forlorn and deserted in its moonlit setting of fields, grass and more fields.

By this stage both our hearts were beating super-fast and we felt extremely wary – somewhat more so when the supposed inhabitant told us he’d forgotten his keys and would have to break in… Cutting to the core and removing the sheer panic from this cautionary tale, he climbed through a broken window – and, it transpired – he did, in fact, live there. We had the hot chocolate then the boys drove us home, perfectly safely and happily. But it was a lesson learnt.  (If Philip is reading about this smashed window incident, he will be smiling at how history repeats itself.)

Today’s methods for meeting people do, at least, give you the opportunity to carry out a fair degree of research before coming face-to-face in a public place.  Social media allows you to see who they’re connected to, whether their friends look like axe murderers, if they have family who appear to like them.  You can check out where someone works, what they do, what they enjoy, where they go – our lives have become open books.

When I started dating again my friends thought it was weird to meet up with someone for lunch or cakes – but it’s really not that different to networking.  I’ve been contacted on LinkedIn for business enquiries that have led to coffee and an iced bun.  (When I proof read this I saw I’d initially typed ‘iced bum’ – that would put a completely different perspective on business meetings!!!)

I’ve been helping a few city-based businesses get to grips with LinkedIn this week.  It’s such a fabulous forum for researching prospective clients and setting the groundwork for future business dealings.  It may share similarities with on-line dating sites, but surely networking events are just like a party full of new friends all ready to chat. What’s the difference?

Nick Lowe said, “I love the sound of breaking glass, deep into the night. I love the sound of its condition, flying all around.”  I don’t advocate breaking anything, apart from ice. If you’d like help to ice-break when you network on- or off-line, give me call. Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Raising money, pregnant at 50 and LinkedIn pages for kings and dogs

Square Mile Salute is a charity set up by my friend and colleague Anne, with the aim of delivering a night of fun and laughter that celebrates all that’s great in the city while raising money for some worthwhile causes that support our servicemen and servicewomen. The sumptuous banquet she organised jointly with CSARN at the Honourable Artillery Company was fantastic with amazing food, gorgeous flowers and incredibly interesting people.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAt the beautifully dressed and perfectly laid table, Ben looked to his left to greet his dinner partner, only to be faced with… a dog!  (No, I’m not being bitchy about anyone.) We had the pleasure of Allen Parton’s company along with his assistance dog EJ (Ben’s new friend) and another lovely creature who is deemed to be the cleverest dog in the military family! As well as the standard jobs these dogs do, such as loading the washing machine, using a cashpoint and getting their owners into the recovery position, this canine lady can sense Cancer and pregnancy, and makes a fuss of the relevant person. Fortunately she didn’t fuss around me.  The woman who went out of Masterchef last week was saying she has one daughter of 35 and another of 2 – born when she was 50…. Just imagine that!!!

Anyway, the evening was a roaring success, raising over £50,000 for four very worthy charities, including Soldiering On Awards.  Comedian Tom Binns was exceptionally funny, providing the entertainment in character and keeping the hall giggling throughout.  The champagne helped with that too…

I’ve walked past the Honourable Artillery many times, and wondered what was going on as I peered through the wrought iron gates.  Soldiers in uniform playing cricket in the heart of the city, a fairground (!!) and some very impressive architecture.  Now I know.  This magnificent Georgian house set in a five-acre garden houses a charity set up by Henry VIII to support the Regiment which bears its name. It’s a lovely estate and it was certainly one amazing night!

The venue can be hired for private functions and I’m thinking about running a social media workshop there.  I’ll need to be organised though, I’m guessing that everything there runs to military precision.  I ran a social media training session recently for businesses based around Liverpool Street and Shoreditch. Although it didn’t start until 9 I like to leave home very early to get parked at the station and beat the crush of morning commuters. So I arrived an hour early and, it turned out, without any make-up, without my hairbrush and without reading glasses (an item that is becoming more of a prerequisite as each year passes).

I’m running a series of 121 sessions this week – hopefully a bit more pulled together!  I’ll be all over London, from Spitalfields to Westfield to a barn on a river by the A10.  It’ll be fun.  I love working closely with businesses to help them generate more activity on social media.  I’d have quite liked to have worked with Henry VIII to help promote his artillery too, although probably best to have steered clear on that one. (I can fire in a fairly straight line as it happens.)  He’d have had an interesting LinkedIn page, that’s for sure. As would EJ the dog…

Wise man Tom Bailey said, “Diamond rings, and all those things – they never sparkle like your smile. And as for fame, it’s just a name that only satisfies you for a while.”  Sparkle online – and keep smiling – ask me about it here: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to Roy Strutt for the lovely photos.)