Renee

Exhibitionism, ageless misbehaviour and my first studio TV appearance

What an amazing afternoon I spent with Martyn the Artist at the brilliantly presented Exhibitionism – The Rolling Stones! Without doubt the best exhibition I’ve seen since Bowie at the V&A.  Also the most expensive – possibly Mick Jagger’s economics background coming into play.  The Saatchi gallery is usually free, so I assume it’s the band making the money? Anyway, so worth it…

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingIt turns out that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, childhood friends who’d lost touch, bumped into each other at Dartford train station, each carrying LPs of blues bands.  What a serendipitous day in music history that turned out to be.  Coincidence? Fate?  Of course it would be all so different today with school friends keeping in touch on social media.  Facebook highlights everyone’s musical tastes, fashion disasters and likes/dislikes, so it’s easy to find things in common with potential multi-million-pound-rockstar-partners.

Exhibitionism showcases not only the band’s talent, but their lifestyle over the past five and a half decades. Their logo pretty much sums it up: the sticking out tongue – an image representing ageless misbehaviour, childish anarchy and sexual decadence of a group of slowly aging men.  Martyn told me an interesting story about this branding; the intellectual property rights for the tongue still belong to the designer. He retained ownership apparently, and earns a nice little pot from the famous psychedelic lips.  A good day’s work, eh?

Aside from the music itself – soundbites, sound installations and handwritten, scribbled lyrics – the Saatchi Gallery displays their fantastically flamboyant fashions, set design, album cover artwork and videos in an encompassing microcosm of British pop. And it’s rude.  Videos of naked girls falling about drunkenly on tour buses. Like the band, these women are probably also grandparents now; it made us laugh.

In the eighties, Gill’s company were doing the PR for the Stones’ film ‘Let’s spend the night together.’  She brought home a huge bagful of badges with those words, and we traipsed around pubs and clubs throughout London distributing them to boys we fancied!  (Don’t do that now…)

The exhibition ended with a 3D concert: what a fabulous way to close the show! So my afternoon ended in a studio – strange, as it had started in one too…

Dr Anne Gordon and I were interviewed live on breakfast TV to talk about childhood stroke.  I tweeted a photo from the Green Room!  We both felt terribly important sitting in there, waiting patiently for the floor manager to organise us. When she came, a pretty young lady called Jennifer, we thought she was taking us into hair and make-up.  How funny – we were so wrong!  Three steps through the busy office and we were in the actual studio, sitting behind a desk waiting for Luke Blackall, the show’s charismatic presenter.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAnne is extremely eloquent, and described her work with the survivors of childhood stroke. I spoke briefly about my experience – seven years to the day of Oli being admitted into the Royal London Hospital.  As I said on TV, it’s a shock that hits so hard it’s very difficult to move on. But move forward we do.

This weekend I facilitated a support day in London for families of childhood stroke survivors, where four medical experts gave presentations and the parents who attended could see that they’re not alone.  It was a Stroke Association event, and donations and support from the public made it possible. Thanks to the team, and also to KAO for donating their lovely office space for the day.

Aside from the fun of this week, it’s been emotionally draining for me, but music usually cheers me up.  My enduring memory of Mick Jagger is the night of Live Aid, where he danced around in a green silk shirt with David Bowie, just two friends having fun in the wasteland that is now Docklands. “It doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there. So come on, every guy, grab a girl, everywhere around the world…”

There might not always be swinging, swaying and records playing, but there’s always social media.  If you need help with yours, call me – or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Creepy dates, a golden Bentley and a morbid symphony of elegance

A cemetery is a funny place to go on a date, people said.  Morbid, creepy, unpleasant.  No, actually.  I’d wanted to visit Highgate for as long as I can remember.  It sat there quietly on my list along with Prague, the White House and a cool, grassy bank in Reykjavik, from where I can lie on my back watching the northern lights.

12122663_10153692132901255_1866986689725145105_nA friend and former client who seems to know me rather well, sent me a Whatsapp message regaling stories about all night gatherings he attended there in the 90s.  I would have loved that – atmospheric evenings around a campfire, capturing the fading light then waiting for sunrise, strumming Judie Tzuke songs on the guitar.

He told me – and I quote: “You would have been perfect – lots of classical English beauties looking very gothic and very witchy…”  I appreciated the compliment – and wished I’d gone along in a Stevie Nicks-style flowing black chiffon dress.  He then finished the sentence with “… and some very naked!”  WHAT???!  I didn’t ask about his attire in the 90s, some things are best left in the depths of wonderment.  I’ve been too busy to play Facebook Scrabble for a while but my naked scrabble buddy will be very interested to hear about this.

Witches and nakedness aside, 12043080_10153692125251255_649454283239578000_nthe cemetery is as beautiful as they come.  It captures perfectly the essence of Victorian romanticism.  Its ethereal atmosphere wraps itself around you as you wander along storybook paths among ancient, crumbling gravestones draped with ivy.  The sun of an Indian summer shone through filtered leaves, creating an effect that I find hard to describe.  So I won’t.  I’ll simply say, if you get the chance to visit, take it.

Also on the theme of morbidity, I was advised by various friends that McQueen is a dark, dismal play about the untimely death of the designer.  It’s not.  It’s a visual masterpiece that does, indeed, delve into the dark depths of a suicidal man’s mind – but in a dreamlike and mesmerising fashion.

The choreography was a symphony of elegance, and the stylish set created a perfect backdrop for the portrayal of one brilliant man’s alter ego to emerge and fan his obsession for creating the perfect garment for each individual customer.  He gained inspiration from their desires and inhibitions, their movements and their aura.  Spellbinding is the best word I can think of to describe my afternoon in the Haymarket Theatre.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the theatre recently.  As I write this, I’m thinking about tomorrow night when I’m in London again to see Dusty, the musical about Ms Springfield.  I’ll have to do my best to refrain from joining in with Son of a Preacher Man, as the soulful sounds I hear emerge from my mouth make others cover their ears and screw up their faces in horror.

11247970_10153233027453509_7922749688028057809_nWe’re driving up for Dusty.  I thought about booking Gordon to drive us – he runs a chauffeur business now as a sideline, driving brides and prom queens in his beautiful golden Bentley.  The car is gorgeous, deep cream leather and wood panelled doors – even Lady Penelope would be proud to travel in such style.  I’m not on commission here but I always like to help local businesses with a boost where possible – please do get in touch with Gordon if you’re planning a special trip.

This is what I’d have sung at Highgate, all those years ago when I didn’t yet know my ‘un-named friend.’  I’ll sing it now instead – cover your ears!  “It’s the same old situation; every word so finely placed.  Running around my concentration is the feeling that I’ve just got to break out and say…”

If you’re looking for words finely chosen and strategically placed, call me to talk about copywriting.  Or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Creepy toy designs, pub work and drunk in charge of a chocolate factory (not me!)

Joan and I spent a wonderfully nostalgic afternoon at the V&A Museum of Childhood.  The creepy birthday party display in the lobby belies the charm of a toy collection spanning 400 years; although, I have to say, some of the dolls are really quite disturbing!  Quite bizarrely, lovely Victorian items embellished with antique lace and duchesse satin, and ornate 18th century Chinese puppet theatres made of precious stones, sit alongside grubby teletubbies and Star Wars characters.  While upstairs, a fantastic collection of dolls’ houses made my afternoon complete.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingWhile I was excitedly telling Joan about my forthcoming trip to Geneva, she recalled a Swiss story from when Mike worked as a food technologist.  That was a cool job and one I think I would enjoy, as long as it didn’t involve anchovies.  Perhaps second in ‘cool ratings’ only to the toy designer I dated for a while, which inevitably came up in conversation as we laughed at some ridiculously dated designs and packaging on display.

Mike’s job on this particular Monday was to run a quality control exercise in a Swiss chocolate factory.  He left Joan in the hotel while he headed off to work, only to reappear a couple of hours later – unconscious and on a stretcher!!  Joan’s concern was short-lived; Mike had been assigned to the liqueurs section… where he’d inadvertently got blind drunk and collapsed with alcohol poisoning!!  All in a day’s work…

I didn’t know Joan in those sherry-chocolate-fuelled days.  When we worked together in fashion, Mike was busy testing cream cakes for M&S.  I frequently negotiated the central line at rush hour holding an industrial-sized cake box containing a frozen strawberry and cream gateau.  That’s probably what started my love affair with frozen cream.

I’ve not had any days like that this week, but I did spend a whole afternoon working in a pub.  Not pouring pints – I can only imagine what a mess I’d make of that.  Instead, I ran a complete 1-2-1 Plain English Business Writing session in a pub nestled within Waterloo Station.  The rain was torrential and it seemed pointless to run through puddles to our agreed venue, when we could stay warm, dry and well-fed without stepping outside. It worked out just fine.

Random year alert: The best-selling toy of 1967 was Ker Plunk.  Bet you’ve clapped your hands with glee and groaned at that at some point in your life – yes?  In the same year Sandie Shaw said, “I wonder if one day that, you’ll say that, you care?  If you say you love me madly, I’ll gladly, be there… Like a puppet on a string.”

If I’m not there with the puppets, I’ll be here with some social media guidance.  Enjoy your week! @WeekendWitch.

 

(Credit to the V&A COM for the pic – mine is the same, but blurry!!)

Fashion week, reminiscing with Jeff Banks and being in the spotlight

It was so hot at the Graduate Fashion Week in every sense of the word.  It was especially hot sitting at the front of the catwalk!  While the spotlights were trained on the models and Gok Wan, they managed to encompass us too.  Luckily our goody bags included a bottle of cold chocolate milk; unluckily (for those sitting around us) I cooled down by taking off my dress… Aubergine silk is far too warm against skin under the glare of the super-troupers.

It was an awesome show with fashion graduates from around the country presenting their capsule collections in the hope of securing a £10,000 prize and – better still – a plum job in the fashion industry.  I love being there! The energy level is so high and the students’ excitement rubs off on everyone.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe champagne is always flowing in the VIP suite, but this year was the added bonus of a delicious looking buffet.  It was so nice I tweeted it. Being the first person to greedily help myself to a plate of perfectly pink, cold roast lamb and a beautiful pale green salad of avocado, asparagus, peas and edamame, I thought it polite to take a restrained portion initially then creep back for seconds after other people had eaten.  Only that didn’t happen.

Within seconds of sitting back down, two official and very cross looking waitresses marched in with a large trolley and methodically removed the platters with lightning speed.  As they prepared to march back out, one reported into her walkie-talkie, “This buffet was taken to the VIP suite by mistake instead of to the judges’ room.  We’re on our way!!”  And off they scooted, glaring at my half-filled plate with unbridled annoyance.  It was like Stringfellows all over again – only this time I didn’t put the food back.  (Didn’t tweet that!)

I had the good fortune to bump into fashion designer Jeff Banks, whose clothes graced my wardrobe throughout the eighties.  There was a branch of Warehouse at Oxford Circus that I had to pass to get to the station, and the knitwear collection had a habit of calling me in.  In the nineties he worked with my mum, creating the Thomas Burberry collection.  Marion remembers him sending my mum a huge bouquet but I’d forgotten that.  He remembered though!

Congratulations to all the Graduate Fashion Week participants, finalists and, of course, the winners – especially the winner of the George Gold Prize!  That talented lady, Hannah Wallace, wins a nice wad of cash and will have her collection on sale later this year in Asda.  (Thank you Mark, for the invitation.  (See, I can spell your name right!))

Another talented lady who deserves a mention this week is Oli’s friend Rebekah Miron Clayton.  An emerging scriptwriter and poet, Rebekah’s work has been selected by a panel including Quentin Blake to be published in The Mays Anthology 2015!  It’s a huge achievement for a university student with a packed timetable, especially during exam season!

Agnetha said, “I was sick and tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow.  All I do is eat and sleep and sing, wishing every show was the last show.” I sometimes feel like that’s all I do too, but replace eat with work for a more accurate scenario, and make it ‘sing badly’ for complete authenticity.  And I always crave the next show.  (So nothing like that at all, really…)

I have no plans to visit Glasgow but I’ll be working in Edinburgh this week, then staying with Marion in the beautiful Scottish Borders.  If you’re north of Hadrian’s Wall you might see me there.  Or, as always, you can see me here: @WeekendWitch.

Wardrobe malfunctions, un-popped bubbles and posh chocs

When visiting clients it’s always good to be well dressed, or at least appropriately dressed.  You may recall that I’ve had my fair share of wardrobe malfunctions – the silk skirt that fell down, the hold-up stockings that don’t, the pink heels that caused much embarrassment at a late night networking event.  All documented on Facebook and Twitter, fortunately less so on Pinterest.  Friday’s debacle topped the lot!

It was a simple, and slightly domesticated start to the day. Here’s the background… My favourite roast potato dish recently came to untimely end, so when I saw a shiny red one on-line I ordered it straight away for home delivery.  On arrival, the cast iron vessel was way too heavy, so I left it in its (fortunately un-popped) bubble wrap.

Planning to visit a client in the heart of Essex to talk about social media, I realised that I’d be driving past the shop and could easily call in to return the dish and claim my refund.  Worried that I’d forget to pick it up on my way to the meeting I left it in a conspicuous spot by the front door.  Nicely dressed in new clothes (age appropriate, so I’ve been told), I threw on my coat, chucked my purple scarf around my shoulders, grabbed my bag and scooped up the unwanted dish, all pleased with myself for remembering it.

Opening the car door, my stomach suddenly felt weirdly cold and wet.  Looking down – in horror! – I saw that the soon-to-be-returned potato dish was filled with…. cat’s pee!!  Which was now all over me!!

I’ve never moved so quickly!! I reckon I was back in the house, washed, changed and de-bubble-wrapped within 90 seconds.  Putting my foot down on the A127 I arrived at my meeting on time, apologising profusely for the possible lingering pong of cat wee….
Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingAt least it didn’t happen on Valentine’s Day!  Thank you to all the lovely people who sent me Valentine’s chocs this weekend.  I received a gorgeous box full of delicious creamy truffles and hearts from my favourite mail-order yummy food company: Desire4Food… that box made an excellent Sunday night dinner!

 

Didn’t know that Ed Sheeran wrote this:  “Kiss me out of the bearded barley; nightly, beside the green, green grass.  Swing, swing, swing the spinning step; you wear those shoes and I will wear that dress.”  Well I won’t be wearing that dress again.  (Actually, it probably won’t even fit me after D4F’s gift and a delicious, huge, heart-shaped box of posh chocs that I polished off on Saturday night…)

If I’m not chasing the cat while he’s getting up to his shenanigans, I’ll be here, as usual: @WeekendWitch.  Thank you for sharing the love!

British designs, a promiscuous man and Dark Knight Rising over London

Attending the opera is one of the cultural highlights of my year.  Drapers’ Hall must surely be one of the most beautiful secrets in London; its plush avante-garde décor and sparkling crystal chandeliers providing an elegance that I attempt to uphold.  So I’m pleased to report that I managed to get through the evening without dropping a canapé down my bra, like last time. Didn’t even trip down the stairs, get celebrity stalky or anything like that. [Read more…]

A hair-raising business, London Fashion Week and the full Toni & Guy experience

I don’t generally find myself being pampered; simply don’t have the time for such sweet indulgence.  You’ll never find me being wrapped in seaweed at a fancy spa, for example – or enjoying a manicure at a posh nail bar.  No, a bright pink splash of varnish that sweeps accidentally over my car’s dashboard is the norm there.  And if I’m ever wrapped in seaweed I’m not sure I’d be telling you here… [Read more…]

A Facebook break, naughty hair and training: food for the soul

Sometimes a break away is just what we need to increase our knowledge and feed our soul.  Especially where we can learn in a totally all-encompassing environment that shuts out the world.  If you’re thinking that I sound spiritually enlightened today, it’s because I spent the weekend on a communication-focused training workshop at a beautiful retreat in Kent.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingThe Seekers’ Trust was set up over eighty years ago to promote the ‘well-being of mankind.’  It’s actually a Christian retreat, but is used by all faiths.  The training room was lovely and bright, overlooking gorgeous cottagey gardens and with a fully fitted kitchen – so perfect for residential courses.  We stayed in little cottages dotted around the gardens, lovely mini homes for the weekend.  For the first time since I can remember, being out of wifi range didn’t stress me.  I had no idea what was going on in Facebook world, but as I wandered through the rose garden it really didn’t seem to matter.  In fact, it was nice to have a break from it.  Came home to over 300 emails though!!

It wasn’t all peace and quiet.  This workshop produced some of the most hysterical laughter and excitement, and created friendships that I’m certain will endure beyond the training feedback stage.  Part of the course involved memory work.  You know how something seemingly irrelevant can suddenly trigger the most powerful memory…?  Well, that happened to me.

My neighbour in the next cottage asked to borrow my hairbrush and as I yanked out the hair to clean it for her, I remembered an incident from 30 years ago on a hot, sticky evening, travelling on the London underground.  It was when I worked in fashion; that morning, Joan had asked to borrow my brush before a jewellery review meeting. I had pulled out the hair that day too, surreptitiously, under my desk – and dropped the hairball back into my bag.  I have no idea now why I didn’t put it straight in the bin!  That night on our way home, Gillian asked to read my newspaper.  As I whipped it out of my bag I saw this naughty, tennis ball sized bundle of brunette hair rise up with it and float, in slow motion, towards the man sitting to my left.  Mortified, I reached out to grab the hair – and at the same time… grabbed a part of him!!  (Yes, a rude part!!)

The funniest thing was, he carried on reading his Evening Standard as if nothing had happened and I started giggling uncontrollably.  Gill was demanding to know why I was laughing, which only made me laugh more, making her laugh, and soon the whole row of seats opposite were giggling while this poor red-faced man stared at his paper.

Anyway, back to training…  The weekend made me think seriously about running a two day intensive social media workshop there.  My cooking’s rubbish but my blueberry muffins are edible!  Actually, Costco provided the food this weekend – even I could do that.  Please let me know if this is something you’d be interested in and I’ll look into it.

The people I met this weekend will know why I’ve chosen today’s lyrics, and it’s not simply because we chatted about Robbie Williams while we ate our picnic dinner on the lovely lawn.  He wisely said, “Through it all she offers me protection, a lot of love and affection – whether I’m right or wrong.”  If you think you may be going wrong, the right training will get you back on track.  I can offer you training courses written with love that will point you in the right direction, focus you or get you there – whatever you need.  Ask me about them here: @WeekendWitch.

Fashion, D Day thanks and 100,000 social media hits

Graduate Fashion Week is one of my favourite projects every year and it never fails to delight.  The treasurer is my client, so my involvement stems from blogging about the gala award show.  He takes me along because he knows I love the catwalk environment and the whole ambience, with outrageous garments displayed in crazy fabrics and bold splashes of colour, feathers, bright, dazzling designs, gorgeous creatures in weird and wonderful make-up and carefully chosen funky and seductive music.  And, as it turned out, free pear cider.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media trainingBut what I really love is the enthusiasm of the graduates as they step, not only onto the catwalk, but into the real world.  The show is a bridge for budding designers as they leave university and embark on their career in the fashion world, and I can clearly remember that excitement of entering an industry that’s hankered over by so many.

It’s a long time since I worked in fashion, but it doesn’t seem more than five minutes since my interview in the temple otherwise known as Top Shop; its flagship store an iconic waypoint at the heart of Oxford Circus.  In the 80s those offices served as the headquarters for the Burton Group, leaders in the UK fashion industry, and I walked into the HR department determined to walk out as an assistant buyer.  I wasn’t a graduate then; my CV said I sold balloons.  When Joan asked what experience I had of buying accessories I referred to my bedroom wardrobe – never daring to open the doors for fear of being buried alive under a collapsing pile of bags, belts, hats, shoes, scarves – all crammed untidily in and wedged in place by the slammed door. Nothings really changed, apart from now they have their own room…

Back then, we thought a career was for life.  But the fun of beginning doesn’t have to end at 18 or 21.  Through my training workshops I constantly meet people of all ages beginning new jobs, launching new careers, testing out new ideas.  They change due to boredom, redundancy, not enjoying retirement, seeking more fun, more money, more prestige.  The excitement of newness is contagious. Nothing beats the enthusiasm and passion of anticipated success.  I switched careers almost 20 years ago, leaving the corporate world to set up in business.  I had no inkling then of the fabulous people I would meet along the way or how many would turn to me for training support to help them become more successful.

Some of those amazing people are ex-servicemen and -women who left the forces due to horrendous injuries.  They were forced to begin again in aspects of their life that, to most of us, is unimaginable.  Creating new businesses despite their personal battles is truly inspirational and always deserving of a mention, but never more so than following the 70th anniversary of D Day.  We’re all free to run our businesses and enjoy our lives thanks to the soldiers being remembered this week – and those that have followed into the services over the past seven decades.  Thank you.

I posted on Facebook yesterday that it was 31 years since I passed my driving test and I could remember very clearly driving straight to college with the Thompson Twins singing In the name of love.  (Gill reminded everyone that I never turned on my lights at night; thank heavens for today’s automatic controls!)   Doesn’t time fly when you’re whizzing along a new motorway on your way to a fashion show?!  As Tom, Joe and Allanah said, “Well it’s fun to think that I’m having the time of my life.  And it’s true if all this around us is paradise.”

Social media’s all about sharing, and when I checked my blog stats for May I’d crossed the 100,000 hit mark!! Thank you so much for reading… if you like it, please share it.  @WeekendWitch

Social media for designers, not doing maths and helping you win awards

Wednesday was such fun!  Dieneke runs an organisation called Hidden Art, turning passion into products by providing advice and support to designers, plus an online shop to sell their lovely products.  We met a couple of years ago in the oxygen chamber and have attended exhibitions together in trendy galleries across London.  She invited me to be the prize in a competition for 800 designers nationwide!! Three ‘lucky winners’ got to spend an hour one-to-one learning how to boost their business using social media.  Their prize also included an hour with Mark, my accountant who mentors in business strategy and realistic growth for small businesses, especially fashion and creative people.

Imaginative Training and Development | Social Media blog

Social media session with Emerald Faerie

We met some fantastic designers!  Barley describes herself as a textile designer maker, upcycler, craftivist and textile teacher.  She’s the founder of Fabrications, a gallery, shop and design studio based in Hackney.  Mark Finzel is a surface designer, creating fantastic wall coverings, flooring and furnishings which reminded me a bit of William Morris on acid.  Fiona’s company has the engaging name Emerald Faerie –she creates contemporary lighting: beautiful chandeliers and, to attract a wider customer base, jewellery.  The feedback was excellent, which was just as well as it wouldn’t have been a good prize if they hadn’t benefitted.

So from one prize to the next… Leaving Hidden Art in a fine mist of rain, Mark (accountant, not designer) and I travelled on a filthy overground train, then tube, in a floor-sweeping, black and silver sparkly evening gown (me, not him).  At our most iconic landmark, the Tower of London, we celebrated Mark and his colleague Joe’s successes in the British Accountancy Awards.  I do sometimes joke about accountants being boring but these ones are not and we had fun, champagne and a very delicious dinner. Entertainment was provided by Miles Jupp, a hysterical comedian and actor that I’d never encountered before but will look out for in future.

In case you’re wondering, I was invited along because I’d successfully completed the award applications on their behalf, a feat that requires plain English, linguistic and marketing skills; it wasn’t because of my proficiency with a calculator – although I was in the top set for maths at school, where Gill and I spent many happy hours playing hangman instead of listening to the teacher, who she fancied.

I missed a lot of school.  Working in the market on Thursdays meant I never did the double maths lesson or the dreaded PE; and having a stomach ache every Tuesday for five years got me out of double French, biology and whatever else I didn’t like in those days.  My next door neighbour Angie also had a stomach ache every Tuesday so we made ourselves feel better by dancing around our homes to 70’s pop or sneaking off for day trips to Carnaby Street.  She moved to Ireland years ago (with real emerald fairies), but popped over yesterday for a fun afternoon with pink wine and onion rings.  She’s on the plane flying home as I write this – see you again soon!!

So with the winning streak in mind… ‘Never could believe the things you do to me, never could believe the way you are.  Every day I bless the day that you got through to me, ’cause baby, I believe that you’re a star.’  Very nicely said, Mr Brown.  If you fancy winning a business award, find out more about my copywriting award winning service – ask me here: @WeekendWitch.