Plain English conceptual art, being trusted and it wouldn’t happen in London

Driving along a country lane in Hertfordshire, we came across a farm of Jersey cows with an unusual shed in the courtyard. From a Star Trek-like vending machine, you can dispense a litre of raw milk into a glass bottle, which you pay for by dropping your cash into a little cardboard box. You wonder if the cow’s on the other side of the shed, legs akimbo and squirting directly into the machine!

milk blogYou wouldn’t get this in London.  The box was filled with around £50 in coins that honest people had paid for their bottle of fresh, unpasteurised cow juice.  Following a whoosh of blinding steam, the creamy milk oozes seductively into the newly sterilised bottle. And then you’re free to leave, having been trusted to make your payment and leave a comment on a post-it note about the convenience of the whole exercise.  Before we left, a sign on the wall caught our eye and, following its instructions, we rang the designated number to order freshly prepared, delicious Jersey cow’s milk ice cream – honeycomb, banoffee and Baileys flavours.

Being in the country reveals a stark disparity to London.  It’s so laid back, and about as far as you can mentally go from the hubbub of the city – although, as you may have noticed, I find peace in the many galleries I visit during my working week.  On Tuesday, Kathryn-from-Ohio and I visited the two current exhibitions at Tate Britain.  The first was a remarkable pairing of Victorian photographs with Pre-Raphaelite paintings – and the second: Conceptual Art in Britain (1964-‘79).

Conceptual art is very much a marmite genre.  Many times, I’ve heard people saying ‘I could do that, I could have done better, this is crazy…’  Yes, but you haven’t, you didn’t and, as mad as you might think it is, it’s earned someone a great deal of money and status in the art world.  They had the idea to present it to the public; it’s as simple as that.

My favourite piece was ‘Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges}’ described as ‘an example of a structure made using organic unstable materials and ordered by time rather than a fixed, spatial or volumetric composition.’  It made the boys laugh. What was originally a pyramid built of oranges is now (at the time of writing!) a wooden square filled with a low covering of fruit. The point of the artwork is that viewer participation changes its molecular form – something I thought about as I ate my free orange the next day!

Kathryn and I commented on the verbose language used to describe the art throughout the gallery and I made some passing reference to my plain English editing work. I don’t do so much of this now, although I still run training courses to show businesses how to write in plain English without waffle and jargon in order to get their message across clearly with maximum impact.

orange blog

So it was very amusing – and annoying – to see that someone had, in fact, turned this into a work of art!  It was actually a team of three people who had targeted art galleries in the late 90s to critique their press releases under the cover of offering free advice. They faxed their annotated versions to the galleries with scores out of ten and useful, interesting and – quite frankly – rude comments.  I could have done that…

Oh well, I’ll have some poetry in the ‘100 Madonnas’ exhibition at the Crypt Gallery in September – hopefully it’s written in plain enough English to get the message across.  And hopefully you’ll come along to the gallery to see the 100 pieces on display – the preview is 8th September, 6pm-9pm.

As I don’t know any song lyrics about oranges, I thought I’d choose something from the period covered by the conceptual art exhibition. I’ve written about Cat Stevens recently, but chose him again today as he’s Joey’s favourite artist (musical, not conceptual) and it is Joey’s special week. “If you want to leave, take good care, hope you make a lot of nice friends out there…”  No. no one’s leaving, but it certainly is a wild world.

If you’d like to know more about getting your business message across in a dynamic, clear and understandable way, give me a call… or ask me here: @WeekendWitch.

Multitasking, networking at home and meeting a gigolo

Andrew is an insolvency practitioner based in the heart of London.  Fortunately, I don’t need his professional services right now, especially as I’m welcoming a new client on board today.  Andrew and I were introduced by Michael, a branding consultant I met at a music networking evening in Shoreditch who, like me, loves putting like-minded people together.

My initial meeting with Andrew was highly entertaining.  Rather than discussing his insolvent clients, we focused on his creative writing; Andrew has published a range of kids’ books in alliterating rhyme.  He also told me an eye-opening story of his life as a gigolo… but that’s another story!

So when he invited me to an evening where he’d be entertaining the audience at Liz Gee’s Lecture Club – with nibbles and wine – I happily accepted.  As it turned out, I’d met Liz at another networking event, at a casino in Gloucester Road, but I hadn’t yet attended any of her events.  What I hadn’t realised is that Liz welcomes her guests into her own home, a beautiful and elegant property at the edge of Holland Park.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingSome people believe that the true test of whether a networking event is successful is meeting people with whom you can do business.  I disagree.  It’s simply about connecting with people that you like and would be happy to recommend to others.  I won’t do business with everyone I met at Liz’s house because I don’t have a need for everyone’s services.  But in the course of the next few months, it’s likely that I’ll meet people who will be pleased for an introduction to at least one of them – and that’s what it’s all about!

Equally as important in my opinion is the venue, as that’s what I tend to remember.  A casino that serves chocolate and nut cookies at 9am, a private club overlooking the Thames with mini fish and chips in teeny tin buckets, a gallery on the 42nd floor above the city of London, a football stadium… and now a fabulous home in west London with luxurious furnishings and an eclectic gallery of artwork adorning the walls.

It was such a lovely environment to be in that it was more like being at a private cocktail party than a business event. Huge thanks to Liz and Rowland for their hospitality.  How great for them to be able to network right in the comfort of their living room… most of us social network from home – in my case that involves more chocolate than wine.

I got the bus to Holland Park that day, a hot and airless Boris bus… then enjoyed by a gentle stroll through the gorgeous park.  It followed an afternoon stuffing myself at Choccywoccydoodah (yes, more chocolate) so the inertia of a bus ride was good – and it certainly beat the tube on a warm summer’s day.  Although the tube ride into town is time I usually utilise to paint my nails.  Well, multitasking is often the key to getting everything done.  (But not always.  Sometimes a solid time management plan does away with the need to multitask and allows you to focus clearly and achieve more.)

A wise man once said: “You can spend all your time making money; you can spend all your love making time.”  If you’d like help managing your time to be more productive, or fancy a little networking, give me a call.  Or chat to me here: @WeekendWitch.

(That wise man was Don Henley.)

Plain English, travelling and Miss J A Bocking: number 1 teacher

People always talk about that teacher…  That special person who steered us through one or two of our tender, informative school years and whose name remains forever in our minds.

In my case it was Miss Jennifer Bocking. A truly lovely woman whose traditional teaching skills and sense of fairness gave us ten-year-olds a good grounding in some of the behavioural techniques we’ve taken forward into adult – and business – lives.

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A dozen of my Facebook friends are in this pic – strong friendships for almost 40 years

No one was ever in trouble.  Naughty children were taught why their actions were unacceptable and shown strategies to improve and build relationships with others.  Those who couldn’t cope well with academic subjects were encouraged in arts and sports.  Anyone with only a few friends was drawn in to groups, by the whole class being subtly taught inclusive behaviour.  Everyone was made to feel special… and valued.

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Zara, Miss Bocking, me and Simon

I believe that Miss Bocking taught in our suburban primary school for a couple of decades.  So, when someone suggested on Facebook that we hold a school reunion for all her pupils, with Jenny (if we’re allowed to call her that now?!) as guest of honour, loads of people yelled “Yesss!” Some are planning to travel from their homes abroad for the simple reason of spending one more afternoon with this amazing lady.

How many of us can boast that we inspire generations?

The reunion is scheduled for early June.  Between then and now I’ll be away more than I’m home, travelling the country from Edinburgh down to Winchester in a quest to spread the word on plain English as the key to good business communications.

Social media training has been my focus for the last three years, so it’s nice to return to my roots and train in de-jargoning, anti-abbreviating and chopping out the superfluous waffle.  I’ve also had an influx of documents to edit, to make sure they’re well elucidated.  I know – that’s not a plain English word, but Katja’s putting on an exhibition of our favourite words, and that’s one of mine! To be clear, it means clear… and I didn’t learn that at school – only when I was doing my degree – and then I had to ask the teacher 🙂

I can’t tell the story of the day I worked with Bob Geldof again… so I’ll just say that this was one of his finest musical moments.  “All the playing’s stopped in the playground now, she wants to play with her toys a while.  And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning, and the lesson today is…”  You know the rest.

My two years in Miss Bocking’s class were possibly the only two that I didn’t bunk off school or have a pretend stomach ache (although I did suffer from genuine migraines).  I never hated school enough to shoot anyone to get the day off, but I didn’t like it.  Apart from those two years in Jenny’s class – they were fab!! So thank you for that, Miss J. A. Bocking!

At least I don’t bunk off work.  Wherever I am in the country, you can always find me here: @WeekendWitch.


Bye Dorset, the most inspirational artist & Satnav to a happier life

I hated satnav when it first appeared.  As a lover of map books (yes, geeky, I know), I missed the enjoyment of tracking a journey through A3 pages where the surrounding landmarks and geographical features could be seen; where cute-sounding villages with potential tearooms could be reached by taking an adventurous detour.

But today, I couldn’t manage without it.  It got me to Dorset and back along country lanes and re-routed without fuss when I careered off course, daydreaming.  (Which is why I avoid motorways.)  If only someone could create a satnav for real life.  A LifeNav; imagine that.  You’d input your chosen ‘destination’ – your goal, and simply lie back and follow your dreams – or trusted route – to get there.  And if you wandered off track, for whatever reason, LifeNav would get you back in the most stress-free way.  If you decided partway to your goal that you’d do something else, you’d simply tell your LifeNav and it would provide the easiest alternative to reach your happy new one.  How lovely would that be?!

Actually we do all have that within us; the power to find it, and trust it, is the secret many people can’t unlock.

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Chérie Wheatcroft with my favourite painting: beach huts at Mudeford

Sometimes terrible things happen that throw us completely off course. The way in which we deal with those traumas, restructure our lives and refocus on the good that’s left is what distinguishes an inspirational person.  Some people seem to have a built-in LifeNav.  I had the pleasure of meeting one such lady this week.  Chérie Wheatcroft is a Dorset-based artist whose work’s on display at the moment at Compton Acres in Poole.  I’d been to those beautiful gardens as a child and was keen to visit them again, albeit out of season.

Chérie’s bold yet delicate paintings of the Dorset coast are breathtaking.  Her exquisite attention to detail and the way she captures shimmering sunlight is pure genius.  Wandering around her exhibition and chatting to her I felt a tiny pang of jealousy that someone can have so much talent, and also be lucky enough to live such a peaceful, unassuming life in this wonderful place by the sea.  What a calm and easy background she must have, or so I thought.

Glancing at the display of press cuttings, a sub heading caught my eye.  At 17, Chérie had been the victim of a serious accident whilst in hospital – where she was supposed to be recovering from being hit by a car.  Unable to walk properly, she’d left her bed at night and fallen onto an unguarded electric fire.  Her hands were so badly burned that they were beyond repair.  As If things couldn’t get any worse, Chérie was transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital for specialist burns treatment, where she became a victim of that bastard DJ whose name I won’t even mention on my website.

Despite everything, she refused to give up her dream of becoming an artist and she is truly one of the most talented and inspirational people I have met.  Please google Chérie Wheatcroft… she’s writing a book about her life; I’ll be buying it!

I’m back to reality today, Dorset behind me… for now, anyway.  Bye bye lovely cottage – I hope to see you again sometime, and I promise if I do I will knuckle down and get on with the book I was supposed to write…

I don’t like driving in the dark, but I don’t mind driving alone with just my friendly satnav and Meatloaf for company.  He reminds me, “Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night, I can see paradise by the dashboard light.” If I’m not in the car, and not in Dorset, I’ll be here: @WeekendWitch.

Fluid plans, overcoming challenges and multi-tasking in the loo

I’m feeling very pleased with myself this week.  Here I am in Dorset, sun streaming through the French doors and a light rain drumming a lulling beat against the roof lights in my little writer’s cottage.  The view of Wimborne Minster looming from where I’m sitting and logs sizzling nicely in the grate make for a an ideal winter’s retreat.

So why am I pleased with me?  Well, I don’t usually drive.  In fact, I’m a rubbish driver; the furthest I travel alone is an hour to Gill’s on a non-Bailey’s day.  I become transfixed by motorway lights and veer off course; I can’t judge the lights of oncoming traffic in the dark and I panic on zig-zaggy country lanes.  I also get exhausted.  So a six hour drive to this beautiful part of the world was a huge challenge for me, and an adventure.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingThe idea, as I’ve mentioned before, was to come away to this lovely home from home and write the book I started two years ago.  That hasn’t actually transpired.  I set the goal alright: it was specific, measurable, achievable (to a degree) and the timing was right.

It’s my second purposeful attempt. This time last year I ventured up to Scotland to Marion’s isolated historic cottage with my laptop, notebook and a pocket full of ideas.  That didn’t happen because the lure of lovely days out with her was too overwhelming.  Village tea shops, ancient churchyards, cathedrals, museums and one of my favourite places – Holy Island – naturally took precedence.

Which is why this year I’m away on my Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingown.  Only… some lovely people have found me.  Wayne, Lydia and David each arrived at varying times with invitations to dinner, lunch and tourist attractions.  Friends on FaceTime distracted me with scrabble and chat, and the opportunity to do nothing but eat locally grown organic food and watch Netflix surged forward in my unfocused mind.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI talk a lot about planning, especially with my clients.  Business planning is essential, of course.  But on a personal level, a good plan doesn’t always have to have an ending… It can lead to more plans, different plans, better plans, more challenging or easier to achieve.  There’s no use beating ourselves up about plans that don’t make it to fruition; we have to accept their fluidity.  My plan was to come to Dorset and work… it evolved into a nicer plan to enjoy a holiday.  So that’s what I’ve done.

Wimborne’s quaint cobbled streets, craft mill, village tea rooms, antiques shops and the largest bric-a-brac market in the south west…  What else could I do?  And added to that, venturing further south to Christchurch I found the obligatory monastic ruins and the ivy-covered gravestones that I so love.

I’m really not used to relaxing, so all this taking time out is new and wonderful.  It’s nice learning the beauty of simple pleasures, like reading the paper over a cup of mint tea rather than catching up on the news on my iphone app while on the tube; or applying my lipstick in front of a dressing table mirror rather than multitasking in the loo!!  So you’ll understand why I’m staying a few days longer than planned.  This means there may be some writing in the offing.  Who knows?  Right now Astrud Gilberto is playing on Spotify and my paperback is calling from the sofa.

The original girl from Ipanema says (in a different song): “Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams, quiet walks by quiet streams.  And a window that looks out on Corcovado.  Oh, how lovely.”  My window looks out on a quintessential English small town, but equally as lovely as anywhere immortalized in a lyric.  (Thank you Wayne; I love you!!)  I’m here for another week, but I’m also here, as always: @WeekendWitch.

ExCel, the real Wolf of Wall Street and a pre-Raphaelite threesome

When Jordan Belfort published his memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Martin Scorsese cast the very pretty Leonardo diCaprio in the starring role, the controversial stock market fraudster was exposed to a whole new global entertainment audience.

Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingI don’t read the financial news and I have to admit to missing the film (a sin to be rectified this week if my eBay bid wins me the DVD).  I can’t stand the people sitting behind in the cinema who sniff, whisper and ruffle popcorn loudly.  So, in fact, I first heard Jordan Belfort’s name only a couple of weeks ago when a Facebook friend mentioned him in connection with a secret scandal involving Kermit – but that’s a whole ‘nuvva story….

In the stark auditorium of the ExCel convention centre, with the Hollywood glitter replaced by chilly grey air and surprisingly comfortable embroidery-branded chairs, the real man was laid bare. Well, not actually bare – it wasn’t one of ‘those’ weird conventions…

The provocative entrepreneur was in London to share his tips for making money.  Legally.  Along with his guest speakers he explored techniques for succeeding in get-rich-quick schemes in property and stockbroking – I’m sticking to social media marketing though.  If you’re lucky enough to find a niche you’re happy in and clients you love, why change your career on the advice of a charismatic multi-millionaire who reached dizzying heights of success but crashed horribly in a crime-laden, drug-fuelled disaster?!

Actually it was amazing to see hundreds of people literally run across the auditorium to sign up for his training programme, and good luck to them all!

The Wall Street superstar certainly made more money than most of us could ever imagine, and achieved greater infamy than we may ever want.  Blowing his millions on a sumptuous lifestyle of cocaine and debauchery, Jordan found himself in jail as a result of fraud, scams and stock market manipulation.  But he clawed his way back to success.  He had stories to tell, that’s for sure!!

Back in the day, William Morris also had stories to tell.  For a special treat, I was taken to his exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday.  Widely known as the premier textile and wallpaper designer of the Victorian Arts and Crafts Movement, it’s less well known that he was a busy social activist with a circle of friends to put today’s craziest rock stars to shame.

I’ve mentioned my love of

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My favourite pre-Raphaelite painting

Pre-Raphaelite art before, and Morris was friends with all the artists whose work fills my study bookcases.   Yet although imagining the dreamy, floral-minded designer as a key figure in Romanticism is true, it’s equally far from the truth; he embraced anarchy, founded the socialist league and was seemingly happy about some free-flowing threesomes going on around him.  Hey ho – makes for an inspiring art project, I guess.

Haven’t quoted my favourite Jim Steinman for a while, so I have a good excuse to indulge myself now:  “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?”  Jordan Belfort’s women did, so did William Morris’s muses….

If you’d like me to ‘take the words right out of your mouth,’ I’ll happily help with your copywriting, blogging or tweeting.  Email for more info, or ask me here, as always: @WeekendWitch.

PS… Thank you to Mark at Nordens for the photo of Jordan – he has a better camera than me and I was busy eating a flake when he snapped it! (And thank you for the invitation!!)

Traditional training, dancing with Marion and Word on the Water

I’m really happy that Marion has officially joined the team.  She’s full of fun with whacky ideas and fantastic skills for managing some of our social media clients’ accounts.  I’ve known her for years; we started working together in the days when sisters were doing it for themselves and our friendship has endured through pop concerts, blue dinners, holidays, children, balloons, and Andrew Wright.  (But that’s another story.) [Read more…]

Plain English dreams, lost in London and Galileo Figaro Magnifico

If you were in the UK on Thursday night, there’s no way you could have missed the fantastic storms that lit up the world with shards of lightening zigzagging across the purple sky.  Unless you’re my brother-in-law, who slept soundly through it all like a worn-out little kitten.

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Fab photo taken by Tony Simmonds – Hove, Sussex. With many thanks to all my Facebook friends who supplied pics and links x

Lying in my bed at 3am, I remembered that someone once told me to unplug major electrical items.  So I crept downstairs where the boys were still watching a film, and ran around unplugging everything like a crazy woman.  Forgot the wifi router though, and woke up on Friday to find no internet!!  Unable to work from home, I baked a cake then headed out in search of 21st century connectivity.  Huge thanks to my clients, Nordens, for putting up with me all day!

During the storm, alarms were going off all over the place.  A nice chap called Vince who’s attended a couple of my social media training sessions must have been busy as a result – he’s a specialist in alarm systems, CCTV and all that. Strange the things that spring to mind when you’re listening out for thunder.

The day of the storm had been ridiculously hot. I left a meeting at parliament at 2 o’clock heading to a potential new client in Pimlico.  Turned out to be a 20 minute walk from the station – not in flowery flip flops this time, but high heeled, hot shoes – and I actually felt as if I was walking through a wall of tangible pressure.  It was so weird, like I had to push the air away to get through.  (Before you ask, no, I hadn’t been at the Pimms at lunchtime!!)  And to top it off, I got lost.  The silly iPhone map took me a horribly long way round, past beautiful cream painted Georgian houses that I couldn’t admire because I was suffocating.

It brought to mind someone else who Imaginative Training | social media blog | social media training | Plain English training | Plain English editing | copywritingattends my social media sessions: Francesca writes London guide books with simple maps – and boy, could I have done with one of those that day.  Her ‘Step Outside’ London guides are actually for children, but they’re so beautifully illustrated and charming that they’re a pleasure for anyone with a love of London.  Must admit, I loved it a little bit less after the aimless wandering then rush hour tube trip home.

Aside from running a workshop on Social Media Strategy this week, I have a couple of Plain English sessions booked.  I’ve also been creating website content and de-jargoning technical blogs recently, for clients’ audiences that don’t need to know the specifics.  I do love a linguistic challenge.  I completed a plain English edit for a company abroad a couple of weeks ago, relating to extremely high tech computer software components – of which I knew nothing.  (I do now!)  The end article was far removed from the initial draft and received excellent reviews when it was published in the glossy Telegraph IT supplement.  Sometimes I wonder if I dream in plain English…

If you’re wondering how copywriters can turn a gobbledygook concept into a coherent and easily understandable text, I’ll tell you in the Gibb Brothers’ own words.  And that’s what it really boils down to:  “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away…”  (Sung so beautifully by Ronan Keating last week, but I still prefer the ancient Rita Coolidge version!)

I think this may have been my first blog in three years to talk about the weather. Whatever it’s like this week, have fun! And if you need me, you can find me here as usual, but with an ice cream: @WeekendWitch.

(Title lyrics by Freddie, of course.)

Protection from alcohol, award winners and a sanctuary full of love

Jump or curl?  What do you do as the light streams through the window? Before I throw back the duvet I usually grab my iPad to catch up on overnight social media developments. If I’m not in a rush, I can happily laze around with Facebook for company until I get hungry.  I thought Sunday was going to rain, so waking up to bright sunshine was a lovely surprise and made me wish I was going somewhere interesting.  Lo and behold, one of my Facebook friends had posted an ad for a craft fair being held at an animal sanctuary about ten miles away…

I’d never heard of Hopefield Sanctuary and it’s not well signposted from the main road, but thanks to Facebook, the place was flooded with visitors.  Founded thirty years ago by a couple appalled by the abandonment and abuse of horses in Essex, the sanctuary has steadily grown with tender, loving care and dedication.

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Safe from the madding crowd

Now also home to alpacas (my favourite animals!), donkeys, goats, pigs and various other abandoned creatures, it’s a delightful place to visit.  Sad, to know of the abuse these animals suffered, but joyous to see the environment into which they’ve been brought – and where they thrive.

I loved the craft fair and spent a good deal of this week’s income on jewellery, gifts and a bag of Baileys and white chocolate fudge, which I’m devouring as I type.  I found a beautiful amethyst bracelet, which was weird as I’d been reading up on amethysts just a couple of days ago.

These gorgeous semi-precious purple stones were regarded by the ancient Greeks as protection against the evils of alcohol!  Apparently, wearing an amethyst means someone can merrily get as drunk as you can possibly imagine, but will be kept safe by the gem’s protective powers*.  They also give the wearer a clear mind in business (helpful for me) and in battle (maybe less so!) – as well as increasing spirituality and an openness to whatever the universe has to offer…

photoI mentioned last week that I’d be attending an awards dinner with one of my clients who had been named as a finalist in two categories for a major industry award.  I’m so pleased to report that they walked away with TWO awards – huge congratulations to Nordens!!  I was especially pleased to hear that one of the judges remarked on what outstanding written submissions they had provided – so I guess that was a good day’s work for me!!

I never ask the female-specific question of questions: does my bum look big in this?  But, looking at the award photo, I can see that mine did!!  Or maybe it’s simply time to call an end to all the Baileys and white chocolate fudge…

So this fudge addiction makes me think I should be quoting Queen this week – yes, you know the one!  Won’t you take me home tonight…?

But no.  Hopefield Sanctuary’s patron is X Factor star Leona Lewis, so I feel compelled to end with some lyrics from her syrup-coated voice. (Baileys flavoured syrup?)  “Light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice… I’ll be right beside you.”  And if I’m not beside you, I’m definitely here: @WeekendWitch.

*Don’t take my word for it… be responsible!!!


A new perspective, laughter on the train and carrying wishes away

I’m in Scotland, supposedly writing my book but in reality lazing about and breathing unpolluted air as I wander through green fields, up beautiful hills covered in sheep poo, then lie curled up by a roaring fire with one of my best friends and a bottle of Baileys.

My trip up was much more fun than a train journey has any right to be.  I admit, I did book first class this time.  In the past I’ve booked a regular ticket then smiled nicely at the friendly guard and asked to upgrade for free.  But one run in with a less-than-friendly jobsworth meant I had to be squashed up near someone smelly and without wifi for three hours.  So I paid the extra and wow! Was it worth it!

First of all, I didn’t know you could settle in for the day in the first class lounge at Euston with complimentary everything. I made myself at home at a clean and tidy workstation, plugged in my laptop and whizzed off a mailshot before anyone had time to offer me my second free banana!!  And I had no idea you could take a shower at the station in spa-like surroundings, before wrapping up in a warm fluffy towel and claiming a hot chocolate and muffin.  (I didn’t actually have a shower – that would have been taking the hospitality a step too far.)

Then the train itself proved a fantastic place to work. Armed with my (more-free-stuff) butternut squash and feta wrap, and a green tea – I turned down the rosé – I wrote four client blogs and some poetry.   The January sun shone through the dirty window as the beautiful Peak District rolled by.

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To top off the fun of the railway, a quick trip to the loo made me laugh so much I posted immediately on Facebook and Twitter.  An automated voice asked me oh so politely: “Please do not flush nappies, sanitary towels, unpaid bills, your ex’s jumper, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet.”  Made my day!!

So here I am, four days later with book unwritten, but far more knowledgeable about home-made damson gin and Tibetan Buddhist practices.  Not that those two things go naturally together, they really don’t.  My time at the Kagyu Samye Linge monastery was spiritual and calming.  This beautiful, harmonious place is a centre for wisdom and learning open to people of all faiths, and none.

Imaginative Training | Social media blogI made my wish as I tied a pink ribbon on the Cloutie tree in keeping with the Scottish and Tibetan custom.  As my cloth fades the wish will be carried away and, hopefully, come true.  Walking around the Stupa (not in a stupor!) the path took me through the Prayer Wheel House, with each wheel containing millions of mantras for peace and compassion.  Imagine a world full of both of those…. Who could ask for more than that?

I did come to Scotland to work from a different perspective, even though less work’s been done than planned.  But getting back into work mode, I’ll be speaking about social media on January 30th at the Truly Me event for women entrepreneurs at Earl’s Court.  It’s going to be a fabulous afternoon (4-7.30pm), so email or tweet me if you’d like details.

If you’re expecting some Scottish lyrics now, sorry to disappoint… there’s no flinging around this laptop.  But providing the background to blog writing right now, mellow against the homemade damson wine and appropriate for the Scottish weather and fields of heather: ‘Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing, it’s time we all reach out for something new – that means you too.  You say you want a leader, but you can’t seem to make up your mind.’  I won’t be your weekend lover but I’ll be your @WeekendWitch, follow me here.