Monday, 23 December 2013

Smart characters, staying calm and making valuable contacts

Smart characters, staying calm and making valuable contacts

Having told you last week that I rarely talk about TV, it’s dominated my weekend.  Kind of.  Something happened on Friday that was totally out of my control: a planned power cut resulted in my Tivo box blowing out.  (Blowing up without the bang?  I don’t know the technical term.)  Four hours on the phone to Virgin (not me) led to an engineer visit today, three days later.  As I write this we are still TV-less, a state that is less distressing than you might think, even during Christmas week.  I’m eagerly awaiting the engineer’s arrival right now: coffee is brewing, mince pies are cooling, my best smile will hopefully encourage him to replace the old box with a shiny new one, full of interesting, fun programmes to entertain me whilst I honey up the parsnips.

The problem with this sort of thing is our reliance on other people, often at the end of a phone line.  Polite, condescending and unable to deviate from their predetermined script, the conversation tends to go in circles, often didactic and rarely satisfying.  Doesn’t it make you want to scream?!!  I’ve learned over the years to not let it drive me crazy – that won’t help.  Instead, I stay calm – meditation helps.  In this instance I reminded myself that most of TV is a load of rubbish, which is why I generally only have it in the background while I’m working or playing scrabble.  (Apart from Homeland, which requires special concentration being paid to Mr Damian Lewis – who, coincidentally, my Facebook friend Karen bumped into in Selfridges last week.  I’m not too proud to admit I was extremely jealous!!)
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So wrapping gifts this weekend gave me an opportunity to catch-up with one of my favourite box sets: West Wing.  After my second run-through in 2012 I felt like I was actually working in the capital of the free world.  Those smart, sassy people became substitute colleagues, holding intelligent conversations and making me think hard, laugh, mentally fight for them and sympathise through their tough times.  Weird?  Not so much.  It seems that freelancers and business people who work alone can feed off characters they admire.  We can mentally transcend environments and place ourselves in an appropriate frame of mind for the setting, becoming more productive in whatever we’re doing in the real world.

Working alone for much of the time is one of the reasons I love networking and collaborating with other small businesses.  Sharing ideas and support with like-minded individuals is fantastic and inspiring, and shouldn’t be underestimated.  If you don’t network – either because you’re too busy, too shy or simply don’t know where to start, you’re welcome to join me in 2014.  I’m happy to recommend good places to make valuable contacts for different industry sectors, and I know who serves up great lunches along with the business opportunities.  Although, we’ll probably all have had enough of food by the end of this week!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate it, and a magical week even if you don’t.  I hope it’s filled with peace, love and laughter – and the people who make you happy.

It’s not too late to write your letter to Santa if you haven’t already done so.  I borrowed Madonna’s this year.   “Come and trim my Christmas tree, with some decorations bought at Tiffany’s.  I really do believe in you; let’s see if you believe in me.”  I’m real… here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sales advice, text pests and three fabulous women

Sales advice, text pests and three fabulous women

One of my business friends has made the bold move of relocating this week.  Tanya Mann Rennick is leaving the metropolis to settle in beautiful Cornwall, somewhere I wouldn’t mind moving to myself. 
Tanya and I met a year ago on one of Leigh Ashton’s sales training courses.  I say business friends because we don’t know each other’s birthdays or middle names but we share similar views and values about work and life.  We both live in homes with pianos, books and chocolates, and dislike lilies.  We love Fleetwood Mac, find calm through meditation and thrive on networking.  In fact, Tanya found such incredible value in cultivating relationships that she set up and runs the successful Oyster Club – an upmarket networking group that includes delicious meals and quite a lot of bubbly.

Tanya is one of a handful of women whose emailed newsletters I look forward to reading.  Her easy style and humorous approach to life sit nicely with my bowl of Alpen as it drops into my inbox at breakfast time.  Invariably her topic is something I can relate to.  For example, a couple of weeks ago she highlighted the increasing danger of simply wandering along from one meeting to the next: 
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Since when has it been my responsibility to move out of the way for people texting as they walk down the street?  Who has decided that these lolloping liabilities have the right to command priority? Why are they not arrested for undue care and attention?”

Tanya’s words immediately struck a chord!  I completely agree that it’s so annoying to have to “carefully navigate my way around the mobile wielding moron, oblivious to his or her environment, or I’d collide with them. Crashing straight into someone with your eyes wide open is the sort of thing you do on a rugby field, not in heels and handbags on Regent Street.”   And, being a walking daydreamer, crash I do!!

I understand why some may text on the go.  I couldn’t agree more that “the demands on us to stay in touch place us under enormous pressure to respond with immediacy, lest we be considered rude, inefficient or dead.” 

Another business friend who’s never rude, inefficient and is always lively is Leigh Ashton.  She’s the second superwoman whose emails I read religiously.  Her advice on sales techniques is pragmatic and quite simply, wonderful – offering tricks and tips that sway between the psychological and common sense to help increase your sales.  Her words often come to mind as I’m about to close a deal.  When I meet a potential social media client and talk through the services I offer, Leigh is like a little angel on my shoulder, reminding me to get into their mindset.  (Leigh, it would be helpful if you could also nag me to stop eating chocolate please – this time of year makes me very naughty!)
The third woman whose emails I read every day – and they make me laugh before I’ve even read them - is my best friend Gill, a girl who gives Helen Fielding a run for her money.  I can’t repeat anything here, of course, so you’ll have to take my word when I tell you she’s been entertaining me, putting up with me and advising me on life, love and everything else for more years than I even admit to being alive.

And we knew all the words to this decades before Carrie Bradshaw and her friends… “Oh yes, I am wise, but it’s wisdom born of pain.  Yes, I’ve paid the price, but look how much I’ve gained.  If I have to, I can face anything… I am strong!  I am invincible!!  I am woman!!!”  If you’d like an introduction to any of these wonderful women, I’ll introduce you here: @WeekendWitch.  

Monday, 2 December 2013

Managing time, being sinful and pink champagne at Westminster

I ran my first training session at Canary Wharf on Wednesday – time management for small businesses. I love training, it’s my favourite part of the job so I’m always excited leading up to a session with a new group. But I was particularly looking forward to be working in the landmark building that dominates the skyline from so far that I can see it from my loft. (Ok, with a step up and a bit of craning…) I couldn’t wait to enjoy the views across London, wondering like a small child if I’d be able to see my house. 

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First tree

But no, I was on the tenth floor, inside, surrounded by other training suites and offices.  It was a fantastic morning though and I met some super people.  We ate complimentary banana and butterscotch biscuits as I showed them ways to make more effective use of their time and kick back against constant interruptions.

One of the delegates, Paul, runs a health and safety company.  I’m all about the safety – I balanced very carefully on the edge of a wonky chair as I put up my five Christmas trees this weekend.  Disentangling myself from almost a thousand twinkling lights, I was very careful about not stabbing myself on broken baubles or swallowing any of the little wooden soldiers.  (Yes, in the past…)  I do admit to an accident with my advent calendar on November 29th, eliciting a vast number of Facebook comments and an email from my friend’s wife telling me that eating it early is sinful, so I’m sorry about that.  It’s lucky I’m Jewish – we’re allowed to eat whole boxes of chocolates in one go.  Without sharing.

Anyway, not sure that Paul’s training covers all that, but he did give me a very useful gift – a neat little box of emergency equipment to keep in my car.  (Actually I’m hoping it doesn’t become useful –I‘m probably not the best person to deal with any type of road emergency.  I haven’t attended one of Paul’s courses yet, but he was a really nice guy and extremely knowledgeable, so if you haven’t attended an H&S course, please email me and I’ll happily pass on his details.  

On Thursday I was honoured to attend the Soldiering On Through Life Trust’s reception in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons.  I prefer to call it the Palace of Westminster but, by whichever name, it’s a fabulous building and I love being there.  This was my third visit this year and it’s kind of making me want to go into politics.  But that’s another thought for another day. 

The reception was to thank sponsors and promote the trust’s aims, as well as drawing the annual grand raffle.  I didn’t win the car or the diamond necklace, but I consoled myself with several glasses of very lovely pink Taittinger champagne.  Anne Diamond gave a heart warming speech; she’ll be doing a lot of work during 2014 to raise awareness of the charity, and I liked her a lot.  I also thought Miss UK was lovely – and not just pretty: a much smarter young lady than the beauty queen in I’m a Celebrity, and also very keen to support the charity.  So we all stood around together for five hours, chatting, networking, promoting and making new friends – in very high heels.  And a tabloid reporter I met there invited me for coffee in his office very high up in Canary Wharf, so my wish may yet come true.  (It’s not my Christmas wish, that’s something different!)

So putting up five sparkling trees only two days later, with Christmas music playing in the background, this song resonated.  ‘Hey, Mr Churchill comes over here, to say we’re doing splendidly.  But it’s very cold out here in the snow, marching to win from the enemy.’  There are no enemies in my training room, just learning, improving and perhaps a few chocolate snowmen.   Let me know if you’d like to book: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 25 November 2013

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

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.
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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

Monday, 18 November 2013

Music heroes, scary creatures and a trip to City Business Library

Music heroes, scary creatures and a trip to City Business Library

I have a new lodger.  A squirrel seems to have made itself a snug little home in the roof space above my office.  The first time I heard it I thought there was an intruder upstairs; definite footsteps and what sounded like rummaging through bags.  Grabbing my keys I ran to my car, where I sat shivering for five minutes while deciding whether or not to call the police.  The arrival of my neighbour prompted me to venture out of the car and he, oh so bravely, ran through the premises ready to confront the burglar.  I know he thought I was bonkers and no one, or nothing, was there.  I’ve since heard the noises several times, as well as scuttling along the side of the office wall along a gap little more than two inches wide.

My friend Alan is Head of Licencing for the public protection team at the local council.  He’s the client who first commissioned me to run a series of training sessions on alcohol awareness, and we’ve remained friends ever since – having shared some wine and a good few cream cakes along the way.  I’m a member of the public in need of protection so I’m hoping he’ll be able to advise me on how to remove the cheeky little creature and let me get on with my work.   Turns out it’s pretty hard to concentrate on writing a social media book with its constant scrabbling above my head.  Some days when I’ve been too distracted to focus, I’ve wandered down to my local library and worked in the reading room.  But… I have a new favourite place to go now: the aptly named City Business Library.
Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media blogDo you know it?  I’ll be running some mini social media workshops there in the new year, so I went along this week to meet the team and see the training rooms.  What a fantastic place!!  It’s a veritable hive of knowledge for small businesses – or any business in fact.  If you need help – on line, through workshops or with the help of some very well informed people – this is the place to be.

The computers contain a whole hoard of databases so you can search for information on virtually anything you can imagine! I went with one of my clients; together we’ll be offering a business growth workshop that covers finance and all-sorts, so he needed to see the venue too.  While we were there, he decided to carry out some research on music.  Now, as you know, I love anything to do with music, especially if its origins were in the 80s.  While he played around, I discovered how easy it is to create a targeted mailing list in a couple of minutes – with The Joshua Tree ringing in my ears.  (No singing along though…it’s very peaceful in the City Business Library!)

The library’s part of Guildhall, a fantastic medieval structure that I toured a couple of years ago as part of a sponsored walk through London to raise money for the Sick Children’s Trust (SCT).  Harry Potter was at his best that day as we wandered through Diagon Alley… Yes it’s here, right in the heart of our city!

I was thinking about the SCT in the build up to Children in Need, and the amazing work they do for families.  Talking about music, I missed Children in Need Rocks when it was shown live – don’t tend to watch much TV but so many people were commenting on Facebook that I caught it on catch-up   After laughing at Chris Evans’ Botoxed smile we watched some of the music industry’s cream performing for charity and, yet again, I marvelled at the way in which Bob Geldof changed the world.  I’ve spoken many times on my respect for this absolute superstar who managed to achieve where governments failed to even try.
And I remember the night of Live Aid Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media bloglike it was yesterday – a fancy dress party with Gill and I dressed as Betty Rumble and Wilma Flintstone, dancing in the street at midnight to Bowie and Jagger.  That was way before my afternoon working with Sir Bob, which I still count as one of my favourite projects, by the way.  And his inspiration and charm keep him firmly in my top ten of heroes.  Who’s in yours?

I play Sir Bob often, but not tonight. Tonight’s reserved for the songs playing in my mind at the City Business Library.  ‘Through the storm we reach the shore; you gave it all but I want more.  And I’m waiting for you…’  Come and find me: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to for sharing the pic.)

Monday, 11 November 2013

War, fashion fit for a princess, war, poppies, war – just war

War, fashion fit for a princess, war, poppies, war – just war

Friday night’s Fashion for the Brave event was just fantastic!  The opulence of London’s Dorchester Hotel provided a gorgeous backdrop for Hilary Alexander’s stream of models parading the catwalk with spring florals and shiny hair.  The dinner was outstanding – as many of you witnessed with my Facebook photos of flaming brulé and flowing champagne – with pounding music raising the atmosphere to fever pitch.
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The glamour and beauty of the fashion show and the presence of a princess couldn’t quite mask the horrors of war.  I was privileged to share the table with two casualties of war who have returned to civilian life, minus limbs, to take on projects that inspire other wounded servicemen and women.  These deservedly award winning men fight an on-going battle – as do their families – and the Soldiering On Through Life Trust works so hard to ensure they receive help and recognition for their efforts.

But the highlight for me was sitting next to retired Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE – one of the bravest men on whom ‘The Great Escape’ was based.  The Hollywood film was made before I was born and I’ve never seen it, although I’ve been told it’s Steve McQueen at his best – an adventure movie of handsome allied officers pulling off one of the most audacious wartime acts.
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The reality of life behind the barbed wire for these captured servicemen is unimaginable.  Charles Clarke’s joint plan for the prisoners to tunnel their way out of the camp was fixed for a moonless night in March 1944.  Despite the ingeniously hand dug tunnel’s exit being on the path of a patrolling perimeter guard, 76 people managed to escape – with three making it home to the UK.

Charles was shot down in 1944, a year in which my dad was taking his first steps and my mum was just a twinkle in her father’s eye.   Both my grandfathers served in that war; yet, other than a few faded photographs, I know nothing of what they experienced.  However, my cousin Adrienne’s American father Harry documented his time, and the letters he wrote to his wife Dorothy have survived, including his account of liberating the Dachau concentration camp.
Imaginative Training | Social Media blog | fashion for the brave
Cousin Harry

This year, Adrienne donated those letters to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, along with pictures, postmarked envelopes and an original ‘Annihilation of Metzrich’ pamphlet, telling of the annihilation of the town by the Nazis.  These items, the Harry Oberyant Collection, are proudly displayed by my family as an enduring testament to the absolute tragedy of war.  They’re also used in research and lectures to maintain the credibility of the Holocaust.  My cousin says, “The hope is that no one ever forgets; but we know that can’t be – the generations will go and it will become harder, harder – we can only all hope to make some small – infinitesimal contribution to something.”

Of course I don’t remember cousin Harry as a soldier.  I remember a smiling elderly gentleman who taught me to swim in Florida, took me to my first London show (Annie) and bought my first strawberry daiquiri.  He was simply my cousin’s daddy.

I supported the Fashion for the Brave event in a dress covered in beaded red flowers, not exactly poppies, but pretty close.  The emblem of Remembrance Day stems from John McCrae’s enduring poem In Flanders Fields, written when poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of World War I, their brilliant crimson an appropriate symbol for the spilled blood.

So this week, no song lyrics, but a remembrance of all the people who have died or been injured throughout our history, and still, today.  “Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.”  Keep your poppies on for a few days longer.  I will.   @WeekendWitch.  (If you respect the work of our armed forces, please share this blog.)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Love letters, being hypnotized and laughing ocarinas

Love letters, being hypnotized and laughing ocarinas

Sue described Saturday as my poetry/art/Bohemian/music event, and that was a pretty good description!  But, I must point out – it wasn’t actually ‘my’ event… 32 artists contributed to the exhibition, and my own exhibit, ‘Love Letter’ was a collaborative artwork with Martyn Royce.  The response was phenomenal!!  Our work was pronounced as “powerfully evocative” and “an emotional knockout.”

A huge amount of talent was evident in the room, and I particularly loved Darren Ray’s installation.  Who knew it would be such fun to mangle a thread of wire into words to add to his display of written dreams and visions?  The music was fantastic too: Avant-pop band French for Cartridge performed wearing paper fan masks and offering unusual, participative instruments to the crowd.  If you don’t know this group you should check them out on YouTube; Cat’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and my friends blew their ocarinas with more laughter than tune.
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If you’re on my mailing list or follow me on social media, you would have received a couple of emails advertising the event.  And this is what I love about entrepreneurial people: an enterprising caterer named Evelyn received my email and promptly contacted me to say she would be happy to cater the day.  I introduced her to the organiser, and lo and behold, Evelyn arrived with a delicious buffet to complement the wine that flowed throughout the afternoon.  Her teenage assistant came equipped with a portfolio of her own artwork and attracted a good deal of attention for that too.

It was also fantastic to see Avril Mills,Imaginative Training social media blog the inspirational force behind The Dream Factory.  Martyn and I are donating our artwork to that amazing charity to help make more dreams come true for the very sick children that Avril tirelessly supports.  Special thanks to Gill, Sue, Steve and my family for coming along – and to those of you I’ve met at networking events who came via my Facebook posts and email – especially Julie, Ju and co.  And lovely to meet Pippa, the energy healer who found me on line and booked a place on my time management training session.  (It’s running later this month at Canary Wharf.)

And speaking of healing, I am eternally grateful to Steve Short for hypnotising away my phobia of eyes.  No more will I be forced to get off the train because a person with a stye has sat down opposite me.  Never again will I swerve the car because a radio advert for Optrex has freaked me out.  And I can now sit quietly through Greys Anatomy and The Walking Dead without shrieking and terrorising the cat. Thank you Steve!!

I’ve had a bit of a Scritti Politti kind of week, so this couldn’t be more fitting: “Hypnotize… How could your nothings be so sweet? You left your love letters incomplete.”

If your writing’s incomplete, let me help you.  Copywriting, editing, business writing training… Whatever you need, I’m happy to give it to you. @WeekendWitch

Monday, 28 October 2013

Marmite musicians, local exhibitions and gaining a business advantage

Marmite musicians, local exhibitions and gaining a business advantage

Dean Friedman is marmite.  If ever a musician could be described as that revolting yeast extract, it must definitely be him.  I’ve seen him perform live twice – once in 1986 at Ronnie Scott’s, then again a few years ago at Dingwall’s in Camden, and both times I loved him.  Went off him a bit when he didn’t want to kiss me though.  (“I don’t kiss fans…”) But I do know people who can’t stand his whiney tone and physically cringe if Lucky Stars comes on the radio.

So it was quite lovely to have lunch with someone this week who quoted his lyrics before we’d even ordered cocktails!  Happily, I have never been to a business meeting, lunch or networking event where I’ve struggled to make conversation; and my favourite has to be when the chat starts with common musical tastes.  When people say they have nothing in common, I simply don’t believe it – there is always a shared thread. And once you find it, the thread unravels and suddenly the moon’s smiling down and you’re running in stilettos to catch the last train.  Or something like that anyway,

Imaginative Training | Social media blogMy lunch date cast his eye quickly over the menu then slowly scrolled through my iPhone music collection.  Yes, we like a lot of the same things.  No, he doesn’t want to take me diving.  Yes, we know a few of the same business contacts.  No, he’s not going to dance in the restaurant to entertain me.

I had to be up early the next day to attend a local business exhibition, where I made some very interesting new contacts.  Someone asked me to present a LinkedIn workshop at a national conference in January, I met an energy harnessing hypnotherapist whom I’ve linked up to the angel funded project I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and I was given a lot of free chocolates.  Result, result, result.
A charming man approached me as I wandered around the hall.  Having spoken a few times previously on LinkedIn and Twitter, we’d arranged to say hello during the afternoon.  Being a regular reader of this blog (thank you!), he recognised me straight away.  He also knew an awful lot about me, and laughingly confirmed that he’s not a stalker.  I guess this does put me at a disadvantage. Does that mean I’m offering an unfair advantage?  Anyway, it certainly speeds up common thread conversations when meeting someone for the first time and we had a lovely chat, drawing in passers-by to join in the fun – that’s networking!!  (I can also give you a fair advantage in business – click here to find out more!)

By the way, I don’t usually drink cocktails at lunchtime – tap water with a bit of ice will do.  So if you’re thinking about meeting up to discuss your social media needs, don’t worry about getting even a teeny bit drunk – that won’t happen.  An evening meeting in Liverpool Street…? Well, that might be another story for another day.

You may be expecting some of Dean Friedman’s words of wisdom here, but I’m more in the mood for Jim Kerr today.  ‘Will you recognise me? Call my name or walk on by – rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down, down, down, down.’

I’m actually writing this on Saturday morning with the garden doors open and sun shining brightly, but the three-day forecast for London shows storms ahead.  So if the rain is indeed falling as you read this, cuddle up and stay warm and dry.  And…‘Don’t you forget about me, I’ll be alone, dancing, you know it baby.’  Maybe not alone, but always dancing.  Join me? @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Joint ventures, laughing out loud & special rate LinkedIn training

Joint ventures, laughing out loud & special rate LinkedIn training

I did something last week that is still making me laugh when I think about it.  I have to face facts: I need reading glasses. I had a meeting with someone with whom I may be embarking on a joint venture, and I asked to see examples of projects he’s created.  He named one as he flashed me the Internet on his phone.  Being a visual person, I focused on the image in front of me rather that the spoken word and was delighted to see it was, as he said, to do with Christmas.  I smiled at the illuminated reindeer pictured galloping in the header.

Returning home, I tried to find the website on my laptop, but with no luck.  I attempted many variations of the company name (including, of course, the keyword ‘Christmas’) but with no luck.  Eventually I gave up and emailed him.

Imaginative Training | Social media blog | Plain English trainingHow he laughed!  He hadn’t said ‘Christmas’ at all; he’d said ‘Chrysalis!’  I was so focused on the excitement of upcoming festivities that my brain heard what it wanted to hear.  Or, more technically, it selected the most closely associated word to the sound that matched the picture.  That was no Rudolph on the screen, but an outlined person glowing with the aura of a metaphorical rebirth; hence the chrysalis!  When he emailed me back I actually laughed out loud, and I’m still laughing.  No doubt he was so impressed with me he’s rushing to set up our proposed joint venture right now… Well why wouldn’t he?!!

Now I’m wondering what other pictures I may have misinterpreted lately.  If you’ve sent me one it might be a good time to resend it, and I’ll view it with my purple reading glasses on!  I suppose it’s akin to proofreading – and I definitely wear glasses for that. Whenever I’m copywriting anything or creating a website to tie in with a social media package, I obviously ensure it’s word perfect before emailing over to clients.

People need documents proofread by someone else, that’s a fact.  Our brain knows what it expects to see, so completely misses little mistakes.  I include a section on proofreading in my Plain English Business Writing training, so people love to tell me the worst example they’ve seen.  The best has to be a council in Essex where a woman sent a mailshot to 30,000 residents with the title: ‘You can count on us.’  No one proofread it.  No one saw it before she pinged the send button.  Lots of people saw the replies though…  There should be three ‘O’s in that sentence.  There were only two.  (You can work it out…)  That made me laugh too, even though it’s very rude.

imaginative Training | Social media blogLuckily I could see perfectly well on Tuesday when I trained two companies to use LinkedIn more effectively in their businesses.  So many people register on LinkedIn, set up a basic profile and connect with others they know, but completely miss the huge array of possibilities that this fantastic social network opens up to them.  Just like in the ‘outside world’ where businesses thrive on referrals, introductions and networking – so the same is true of this amazing platform.  You can source and target the people you need without leaving your chair, whenever it suits you and wherever they are in the world.

It’s a hotbed of opportunity that’s there for the taking if you just know how.  As I feel so passionate about this, between now and Chrysalis I’m offering six REDUCED PRICED one-to-one LinkedIn training sessions – completely focused on helping you achieve your business goals.  If you’re based in London (or happy to travel here) and you’d like to take advantage of this short-term offer, sign-up here and I’ll contact you within 24 hours to arrange a convenient date and time.

As Bananarama said (not the one time I sat with them in a café in Carnaby Street): “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it; that’s what gets results!”  Want results?  Book here for starters.  And, as always, it’s lovely if you follow me here: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Confidence building, angel funding and where there be dragons

Dropping off my son at Cambridge University last week was expected to be a major turning point in my life.  But what counts as a turning point?  Being asked to provide social media training was the key turning point in my business – an opportunity arose, I grabbed it and suddenly everything changed.  When I was studying for the first year of my degree I took an introductory course in humanities, and one of the assignments was to identify turning points in literature.  I don’t suppose I’d considered it as a defined term before that: it’s a life changing event after which nothing is ever the same.  There have been six in my life.  This wasn’t one.

The day made me smile.  To watch your child walk away with confidence to start a new life as an independent person is really quite amazing. Within hours he had a new home, new bunch of friends, new interests. New new new!  I felt so proud of what he has achieved, and quite pleased with myself too.  I believe that confidence is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone, so I think I’ve done my job reasonably well!

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Actually, nothing much has changed.  The house is quieter, the cat looks confused, I cook a little less than I did before, but that’s about it. I’m still busy in the office creating social media plans and writing blogs for my clients.  This week I also built a website for a new Thai Restaurant – and I did it without the background noise of Xbox, three TVs, eight guitars, an electric drum kit and a piano.  So yeah, something’s changed.

The extra time I thought I’d have to indulge in a new hobby hasn’t emerged – well, if that hobby is scuba diving there’s not much point doing it at home anyway; the bath is big but not that deep and I don’t usually wear a bikini in it.  (By the way, thank you to the few people who have offered to take me on diving holidays to Egypt!!)  I’m still thinking about joining an art class though.  Working with Martyn makes me want to paint naked people floating around the moon.  Or perhaps that should be underwater.

Did I tell you that our collaborative artwork is going on display in north London in a couple of weeks?  His paintings including my poetry. I’ll be emailing about that this week so please don’t junk me!!  I have been reliably informed that there will be wine and nibbles at the opening so surely that makes it worth adding me to your email safe list. It will be fantastic if you can call in.

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Angel Investor, fairy godmother… pretty much the same thing

I’ll be avoiding the wine that day – even the pink sparkly stuff that makes me giggle at networking events.  I had a bit too much this week at a launch party for a new investment venture organised by Dragons’ Den dragon Rachel Elnaugh.  The venture’s known as angel funding – the opposite of fire-breathing dragon scariness, but I guess without the delicacy of angel dust; after all, the propositions requiring this type of crowd funding investment are hardcore business ventures.

I didn’t do much networking; I split most of the evening between just two men who may create my next turning point…  One has already approached me about social media work and the other is an investor in various businesses, some of which made me laugh – but I can’t say what they are as he told me about them in confidence.  Still, he’s buying me coffee soon, or maybe pink wine – and a cream cake – so I’ll know more about his antics after that.

In the meantime, ‘I sit and wait – does an angel contemplate my fate?  And do they know the places where we go?’   You know where I go – what are you waiting for?  Follow me there: @WeekendWitch.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Motivational words, growing old gracefully and flowing streams of silk

Filling the O2 for the last leg of their world tour, Fleetwood Mac had 20,000 people on their feet belting out the lyrics to The Chain.  I own a lot of music – including a couple of hundred original albums on vinyl, but Rumours remains my all-time favourite.  And I can remember very clearly the first time I heard it.  It was 1986, in a tiny hotel in a quiet and uninspired corner of Minorca.  We’d booked last minute and my boyfriend had taken a huge cassette player – but forgotten the cassettes! (Some of my younger followers are confused by this prehistoric language…)  So all we had was the one tape already in the machine – Rumours!  We played it continuously for the whole week and it firmly established itself as key in the soundtrack to my life.

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But even more than her music, Stevie Nicks’ style blew me away.  Watching her twirling around the stage on Tuesday like a girl on the edge of seventeen, it was very hard to believe she’s actually a woman of 65.  I am determined that the next 20 years will see me grow old as gracefully as she has. (But without the cocaine addiction, of course.)

I always choose nice clothes when I’m working. At the last networking event I attended, several people commented that I looked glamorous and brought colour to an early morning business meeting.  That was nice.  But outside of work my wardrobe is crammed full of chiffon layered skirts and floaty gypsy-type dresses, with dangling lace and delicate beading.  There’s a Jewish word that describes the flowing streams of silk and braiding that surround Stevie Nicks – and, often, me – shlorums!!

Stevie’s black net skirt and trademark platform boots could have come straight from my bedroom, I’m actually wearing something almost identical today.  The black satin ribbons bouncing around her tambourine also resembled something I like to stick in my hair. (Not on training days!)

So, a quarter of a century after Dale first introduced me to Mick Fleetwood and co, the mystical female lead is still hugely influential on me.  Although I can confirm that I’ve never been tempted to go blonde.  You may not know this, but rumours abound that Stevie Nicks is a witch, something she vehemently denies.  Her record label is Welsh Witch, which isn’t far off Weekend Witch, so maybe we have more in common that simply a love of shlorums!

It’s rare that I wake up sad but something had upset me on the morning of the concert.  I was very happy by the evening though; and her words are good advice to anyone who sometimes needs a bit of motivation. “If you wake up and don’t want to smile, if it takes just a little while; open your eyes and look at the day – you’ll see things in a different way.  Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here!  It’ll be better than before – yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.”

What are you doing tomorrow?  Forward planning is invaluable in business.  If you need help planning your social media strategy, marketing or simply planning to manage your time better, come and chat: @WeekendWitch

Thanks to for sharing the lovely pic.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Displaying creativity, targeting the energy and juggling it all

I’m very excited this week that my poetry is being exhibited as part of a collaborative artwork with my talented friend and colleague Martyn Royce.  The ‘Art of Writing’ exhibition opened on Saturday in the Cornish town of Redruth where it will live for a month before making its way along the south coast back to London.  It will then be on display for a further month in Highams Park, North London, where you may be able to join me for a glass of wine and a private viewing.

Mine is a short and simple poem – just 33 words – that Martyn has handpainted across two canvases.  Together, we have personified the trauma of passionate love turned to ashes.   It depicts two people who once loved each other, but that love is now lost.  The breakdown of their relationship is reflected in the finality of the words, written in the most basic language to defy misunderstanding.  The sharp colour contrast acts as a metaphor for the polar emotional landscape between a lovelorn woman and man.  But who wrote to whom?  You can decide.

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The Juggler

I’ll let you know when the exhibition reaches London and, if you can come along and view our creativity, that will be fantastic. In the meantime, Martyn’s painting of me caused a bit of a stir on Facebook.  It’s called The Juggler – and I am that, for sure!  Life, business, emotions, family, creativity, charity, the balls go on.  My ability to juggle everything has led to my new Time Management training session.  It focuses on achieving more effective use of business time, personalising for each individual a system that’s been proven to work.  The next session available to small- and micro-businesses is in November and I can’t wait!  I love helping business owners to achieve their goals, so if you fancy sharpening up your business strategy, this is a great place to start.

Something else that made me smile this week was an independent review of my book that appeared on Twitter: “The bright, breezy tone and diary style mean it all flows quite naturally and even when Renée touches on more serious points, it remains a thoroughly entertaining read.  An added bonus is that this book also comes with its own eighties-oriented soundtrack!  A quick yet engaging book which is bound to raise a few smiles as you read, but which will also get you thinking about your own approach to business and networking – and maybe a few other things too!”  Thank you, @ClairOverThere.

I attended a lecture on Pranic energy on Thursday – it’s not woo woo!  It reminded me that my daily meditation has lapsed a bit. Well ok, a lot.  Alright… completely.  We took part in some group meditation, right there in Euston, closing our eyes and filling our bodies with white light.  It would have been so peaceful if my friend hadn’t kept giggling. It was very funny.  I’ve long since acknowledged the energy we can harness from the environment, so it was awesome to learn about how to target it properly from a Grandmaster and his disciple.  Whether you believe that Eastern (and, sometimes mystical) therapies work to keep us healthy and energised – or you don’t – there’s no denying the huge world-wide following that finds comfort and pain relief from its powerful teachings.

With this week’s lecture and the excellent review, I’ve been well and truly motivated to get a move on with my social media book.  I’ve challenged myself to publish it by Christmas.  (Nice pressie for someone you know?)  So I’d better get writing…

‘Just close your eyes, again, until these things get better.  You’re never far away, but… we could send letters.’  Still love that.  We’re more likely to tweet, so here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Accountancy superstars, a Guinness world record and copywriting with love

It’s been a week for celebrations!

Firstly, I entered one of my clients for a major industry award and they’ve been shortlisted in both of the categories I submitted.  Nordens  has been named as one of the top five independent accountancy firms in Greater London.  I wrote them a brilliant application, even if I do say so myself!  They’re my accountants and I’ve worked closely with them for a long time so I wrote it with love.  One of the team – Joe – has been named as a top New Accountant in the UK – pretty impressive, huh?

They are a fantastic company – dynamic, innovative, completely customer friendly and absolutely the best at what they do.  In their bright, modern offices they have a dreaming room – how cool is that?  Their clients can lie back in deckchairs while the team comes up with creative ways to help their business grow.  I’m dreaming of lying in that yellow deckchair right now.  And best of all, they have a big bowl of chocolates on the table when you go in.

My ex-boyfriend Brian was also an accountant, but now he’s a high flyer in a software company.  I headed over to beautiful Berkshire to visit him last week.  We hadn’t spoken for a few months and it turned out that Brian has been in the press quite a few times this summer.  If you were one of the unlucky ones stuck on the M25 last month in a sweltering heatwave and seven car collision, you might remember the news reports focusing on one man, sitting alone amidst the turmoil, oblivious to the chaos around him and merrily carrying on his work in a makeshift motorway office.  That was Brian.
Imaginative Training | Social media blogIsn’t this a wonderful example of cup half full?!  While everyone else was moaning and stressing, Brian took advantage of the time he had to himself and got some quality work done!  And… his photo was picked up from Twitter and did the rounds on all the news outlets so he achieved his five minutes of fame!   Or so you’d think….

In fact, Brian’s fame spreads far further than the M25 boundary, for he is a Guinness World Record Holder!  Yes, the second celebration of the week: my ex-boyfriend is the world’s greatest achiever at a sport!!  It’s not athletics.  Nor is it cycling.  Or football.  (Although he did once punch another of my ex-boyfriends on the football pitch and laid him out flat!)  But no, it’s not for boxing either.  Brian is the world champion at Toad in the Hole, a little known game that originates in Sussex and mainly stays there.  But it’s good fun and I wasn’t too bad when I had a go last week.

And finally, today is my first born’s 21st birthday.  I’m not working this afternoon; I’ll be celebrating with a family party, a big pitcher of Pimms and a healthy selection of cream cakes.  Never mind Guinness World Records or British Accountancy Awards… it’s me that deserves an award.  My beautiful baby boy popped out after a mere 24 hours and 15 minutes of hard labour.  They say you forget the pain.  I haven’t. Happy birthday Ben, you’re an amazing son and I’m so proud of you every day.

At a huge celebration when Ben was 13, we started the dancing by whirling around the floor to this, together, mother and son – definitely a moment I treasure.  ‘I could stay awake just to hear you breathing.  Watch you smile while you are sleeping, while you’re far away and dreaming.’ 

Whether you’re dreaming in a yellow deckchair or anywhere else, if those dreams include making your business more visible using social media, call me today and I’ll make your dreams come true.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Facebook memories, training in Essex and hiding behind the music

Essex is a fantastic place to live and do business.  If all you know is what you’ve seen on Towie, believe me – that’s not representative of the people, businesses or language.  Well, not this bit that doubles up as ‘east east’ London anyway!   So whilst I consider myself more of a London girl than an Essex one, I was pleased to be invited to attend a day promoting the training venues around the county.

Stately homes, crumbling castles, high tech architecture – we’ve got the lot.  And Essex County Council organised a day that I loved… partly because it included really good food!  A hotel breakfast was followed by an afternoon at the end of Southend Pier – the longest in the world.  Crispy bacon with fruit platters, chicken kebabs, roasted vegetable kebabs, creamy cheeses, olive bread, salads, freshly baked afternoon tea…  Now that’s what I call a good day’s work!
imaginative training and development ltd | social media blogWe were serenaded all afternoon by The Gershwin Gang Jazz Band; I do love a bit of jazz in the sunshine with a Pimms in one hand and a clotted cream scone in the other.  A friendly photographer shot around 1000 snaps (thank you for my pics, Matt!) and we chatted and networked until the tide rolled out on the clear blue horizon.  Well, towards Canvey…

Being on the pier always reminds me of the summer I was 15 and supposedly studying for my end-of-school exams.  My mother ran a gift shop on Clacton Pier – further north along the Essex coast, tacky, tatty and gloriously kitsch.  While she was busy working I met up with two boys I knew I’d never see again.  One was called Mark, a blond builder from somewhere up north that I met in a nightclub (this was pre-ID days).  I got bored of him quickly.  If I had a shift in the gift shop I used to hide behind the stacks of musical wind-up novelty trash when he came searching for me.

The other worked in the pier bar.  I can’t remember his name, but he had an industrial hoover that I sat on for rides around the pier – while he vacuumed it.  We knew how to live it up in the eighties!!  I came home that autumn safe in the knowledge that neither of these summer fling people would impact my life again and would merely forever be ‘the Clacton boys.’

So you can imagine how shocked I was to be walking around town and bump into Mark-the-blond-builder who had conveniently got himself a job in east London to be near me.  Umm… that wasn’t the plan.  I managed to detach myself from him and get on with my life with all thoughts of Clacton neatly filed away in my memory banks.  Until I met Marion.  Turned out the boy who took me for a ride on his hoover was her brother’s best friend!  Small world.  Small, small, teeny tiny world.
I’ve written before about the six degrees of separation and how it’s so easy to find people and reconnect using social media.  Had social media been around in the eighties it would no doubt have been Facebook that ensured I couldn’t escape the memories of vinegary fish and chips on the bumper cars, with a musical background provided by the incessant clanging from the amusement arcade against a backdrop of North Sea waves.

The Essex I visited last week was a far cry, and it was lovely to be out of the city heat, even for just one day.  I’m back in town this week for training sessions and meetings with new clients.  Underground tracks versus winding roads?  As Mr Essex himself says, ‘If that road gets weary, oh I love you.  Waiting here if you need me, ‘cause I love the things that you do.’

Wishing a sweet and happy new year to all my Jewish friends, family and followers – may the year ahead by filled with good health, cream cakes and sparkling success.  And if your road does get weary, follow me to a brighter one: @WeekendWitch.

Thanks for the photo Matthew Wherry :)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Private dancing, silver cups and entertaining real life Twitter friends

Last week I invited a man I’d met on twitter to my home for lunch.  Some of you may think this is strange, unwise or totally bonkers, but others of you will think it’s par for the course in our house.  I made friends tweeting with Robert Puzey last year and we’ve since chatted on Facebook.  He is a hugely talented songwriter with a stream of glittering awards and accolades.  If you’ve danced in a club, disco or at a school reunion, chances are you’ve sung along to lyrics written by Robert’s fair hand.
Imaginative Training social media blog
His awesome musical talent impressed us all, and his advice to Ben was invaluable.  Wasn’t all good though… I’m sorry to admit that he beat me at table tennis!  I haven’t got over it yet!!  But I am still the queen of ping pong in this house, so it’s not too bad.
And speaking of dancing, a few of you know about my exploits this week and may be expecting me to regale you with x rated tales.  Well tough luck!  This is a professional blog (and not that profession)!  But needless to say, my eyes were opened to a different side of London life.  I thought I’d seen it all…. Well, now I’ve seen it all!

Yes, my meeting with a client and potential new client was held in a pole dancing club.  Not a tasteful one, so I’m pleased I’d had my lunch at the previous venue, where all the chefs and waitresses were nicely clothed.  Although I’d seen it on TV, I was shocked by the exploitation of the dancers in real life.  Even more stunned when I was outvoted in discussions with people of all ages and both genders that it’s the dancers doing the exploiting, and good for them to find paid work rather than claiming benefits.

Anyway, I’m not discussing the moral issues here.  I have attended business meetings in all sorts of venues – after all, every business needs social media.  But it was certainly an interesting afternoon.  And no, I didn’t join in…

While we’re on the subject of dancing, you may have seen on the news that the world Tango championships took place last week.  This elegant and passionate dance (my favourite, by the way) actually originated in the slums of Argentina – in brothels, in fact!  Probably not that dissimilar to pole dancing today, although I witnessed no elegance or Flamenco-inspired gowns in Shoreditch.
Obviously, I’m not interested in a moonlight career pole dancing, but I have always fancied flicking my calves for the tango.  We had one lesson once, and weren’t too bad.  I should be good – my grandparents were European Tango champions!  They were fantastic dancers – world Charleston champions too!  Now that would have been something to tweet about!!

I might not be winning any silver cups for dancing, but I did once win a London business award for my plain English business writing training.  So let me know if you’d like me to help you write more effectively.  Or if you’d just like to dance…

As the grand old lady of pop says, I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money; I’ll do what you want me to do.  I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money – and any old music will do.

I doubt anyone would want to pay me for dancing, but if you’d like a session in London (in a more acceptable venue) to discuss your social media strategy, please get in touch… @WeekendWitch.

(Photo courtesy of, with thanks.)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Free entertainment, local SEO and streets paved with gold

My favourite F word… The weekly summer concerts held outdoors at Canary Wharf are superb entertainment, a whole lot of fun… and absolutely free!  Julian brought them to our attention a couple of years ago and we’ve been to various events – the best being a night of Michael Jackson (not the real one).

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This week was Frank and Ella – not my favourite genre but perfect background music.  It’s so lovely to lie on the grass and watch the sun disappear behind the elegant glass and steel structures as people start gathering around the stage.  By the time the concert started, the park was jam packed.  About 40 people were in our group, squashed onto blankets and plastic sheets, cuddling up to strangers, making new friends, munching picnics that were hastily picked up in Waitrose.

As the sun sets around Canary Wharf, the buildings turn electric shades of neon blue and purple.  It’s such a cosmopolitan arena that on a night as warm as Tuesday you could be in any futuristic city.  We’re so lucky to be living in London.  Apart from the rubbish.  And the underground, which I avoided on Tuesday by jumping on a big red iconic London bus.

The bus took me to Docklands straight from my lunch with Nick, a business friend that I met last year at a networking event.  He’s an expert in local SEO, helping businesses to optimise themselves for Google search results. This complements nicely the work I do helping companies to market themselves through social media; I’m enabling them to gain ground with Google by using their social media and blogs to attract a greater traffic flow – ultimately bringing new customers.

Nick’s based over in Wimbledon, the home of the Wombles.  (I know some of you will be pre-empting today’s lyrics!)   Canary Wharf was pretty clear when we left, but typically, a walk around London is ruined by the mounds of rubbish piling up or blowing along the pavements. Gives new meaning to Dick Whittington’s concept of streets paved with gold.  Gold coloured crisp packets and silver fag packet liners maybe…


The Wombles’ motto was to ’Make good use of bad rubbish,’ an ethos three decades ahead of its time.  The idea of recycling was pretty vague in 1970’s UK, but the funny, furry little creatures definitely inspired a generation to pick up their litter.  If only the visitors to our shores could be so accommodating; some people just seem to have no idea of how to use a bin!

Anyway, I decided the Wombles are not sophisticated enough for me today, so this seemed the most appropriate Ella song to choose.  Maybe flying a bit close to the wind, but a good test to see if Steven reads this blog.  Vexed again, perplexed again, Thank God, I can be oversexed again… Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I.  Risqué lyrics for 1940 and I’ll probably be in trouble today! So follow me quick, before my broomstick is confiscated: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Congratulations, a decent education and life is what you make it

I usually avoid talking about my family but couldn’t help grinning like a lunatic escapee from Bedlam as I scrawled Oli’s news all over Facebook and Twitter – he’s going to Cambridge!!  On Wednesday we were up all night ‘til the sun.  (In separate rooms – didn’t want to wake each other, didn’t realise everyone else was up and busy checking the Internet.) The results came through at 6.30am and we were dancing around the room.  It’s such a wonderful achievement for anyone, but even more amazing for a boy who missed a huge chuck of his education following a stroke.

People seem to think it’s funny that my son and Gill’s daughter will both be Cambridge alumni.  It’s true that we didn’t accomplish much at our school; well, no one did from the dreadful place where we were supposedly educated.  University wasn’t even an option as we weren’t told it was a real place!  How different the world is today!

Most days, I didn’t even go to school.  For a while I worked for Trevor on Thursdays – someone from youth club that I fancied briefly.  He ran a stall in Woolwich Market selling broken biscuits and it was much more fun than double maths and bunking off PE.  I never went on Mondays either, as I was usually tired after a weekend of dancing.  I hated science (ironic, as I love it now) so I missed the days when we had those lessons.   I did go in for art and English, of course, and I still have my exam coursework somewhere upstairs.

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Oli’s college at Cambridge

As it happens, Gill and I did find our own way to Cambridge – years later when we were living in our flat in the more ‘cosmopolitan’ part of town.  We spent a day there enjoying cream teas and wandering through the beautiful college grounds, then… spent the evening locked in one of the gardens!!  We entered through (what appeared to be) a magical gate as someone was coming out, and sat amongst the flowers overlooking the punters swishing about on the Cam.  Then, as dusk fell, we realised we were stuck there.  The colleges were closed for the summer so we had visions of living off leaves and wild berries until September.  Fortunately we escaped – eventually – and probably not appropriate to tell you how we managed that…

So it’s better that our kids have made it through the more traditional route. Huge congratulations to all the young people reading this who did so fantastically in their A levels this year.  Your world is just beginning, spread your wings and fly!  Your life is what you make it.
How different my life would have

been if I’d gone to a decent school.  Although I wouldn’t have my wonderful friends and I probably wouldn’t be running a training company now; and I love my work – helping small businesses make the most of their social media.  I’d really like to tell my horrible old English teacher that I ended up with a Masters Degree in Linguistics and made a career out of training businesses to write in plain English.  Wonder what she’d say about that?
Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media blogProof that we did go to school…. sometimes

So would I go back and do things differently?  Absolutely not.  No one should.  Some of the best advice I received through my school years came from Nile Rodgers and his words resound loudly today. ‘We’ve come too far to give up who we are; so let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars…’
Have fun, be lucky and follow your dreams.  Or follow me… @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Social media dinosaurs, an influential woman and smashing the glass ceiling

We spent a beautiful few days in Lyme Regis – the home of the dinosaurs!  If you’ve never experienced the delights of Devon and Dorset you really are missing out.  The beaches are just lovely – not all fine white sand, though, so if sandcastles and burying yourself up to your neck is your thing, it’s not for you.  The shingled and cobbled coastline has a sense of the prehistoric about it, with its rising, crumbling cliffs and grassland overlooking the azure sea.  It’s not called the Jurassic Coast for nothing!

Lyme is a small picturesque town nestled at the base of a hill, a haven of shops selling ammonites and purple quartz, with tea shops overflowing with clotted cream.  The coloured bunting straddling the narrow street gives a 50’s feel to the place, while the whole area throbs with the reminders of Mary Anning’s historic discovery.
Imaginative Training | Social media blogIn 1812, at just 12 years old, Mary uncovered the first ichthyosaur.  She went on to find one of the largest collections of dinosaur skeletons and fossils in the world.  Yet – here’s the sad part – being a young girl from a lower social class, she wasn’t allowed the respect or acknowledgment of the scientific community and her work was often un-credited.   Her whole life was a financial struggle.  Despite this refusal of the elite male scientists to let her in, they consulted her frequently; an early example of women fighting to smash through the glass ceiling.

It was only a couple of years ago that the Royal Society included her in a list of the ten most influential women in the history of science. Now, if social media had been around in Mary Anning’s day, we can only imagine what she’d be tweeting!   News of the unbelievable monsters would have gone viral before anyone even knew what the term viral meant. LinkedIn status updates on the horrific landslides that thrust forth the huge primeval bones, FourSquare check-ins at beach huts, dinosaur photos being shared on Pinterest

Actually I found some ancient photos in the loft recently – not quite prehistoric, but certainly pre-social media.  I took them during my photography course at college over a quarter of century ago.  Not the same as 90 million years, but long enough ago that I got excited when one of my old college friends found me last month on Facebook.  He’s set up a page for our years at college, so I added my photos there.  A couple are of Alan Davies.  I was a little bit in love with him as a funny charismatic teenager.  (Him, not me.)  Not sure he realised though, I was fairly shy back then, secretly snapping him at every opportunity.  And he didn’t reply to my message some years ago on Friends Reunited, although Gill did say I sounded a bit like Annie Wilkes in Misery…  Annie, Anning…it all ties in I guess.

Photo hunting in the loft isn’t nearly as much fun as fossil hunting on beaches.  ‘I know it’s out of fashion… and a trifle uncool.  But I can’t help it – I’m a romantic fool.’  Well I do like watching the sun go down – on any beach.  And it’s quite nice to be away from the Wi-Fi, even if it is only for a short while.

I’m back on it now though, so you can find me right here, where I usually am: @WeekendWitch.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bullet points, French bites and a social media merry-go-round

I was so proud of Oli on Friday when he gave a talk to 150 people at a conference at the British Film Institute.  He’s funny, charming and very cool, modestly receiving the loudest claps of all the speakers.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve run any presentation skills workshops, but he definitely wouldn’t have needed that – he’s a natural.  Although – rewind – he did say afterwards that I was right about him at least having some bullet points jotted down, as he did forget to chat about a couple of things he’d planned to impart – nothing important though, luckily.

I’d never been inside the BFI before.  I always thought I wouldn’t have the patience to watch a subtitled film, but I’m addicted to Sunday nights’ The Returned on ITV.  I only know two other people who watch it but, actually, you forget you’re reading the words.  It’s done wonders for my French – I can sometimes even recognise when sentences have been shortened, presenting us multi-linguistically challenged English speaking viewers with condensed versions of the actual spoken language.  So if anyone would like to take me to see a French film now, I will happily go.  Try anything once, anyway.

It was fantastic wandering along Southbank after the conference. It’s been revamped over the past year and there are loads of decked areas among shady trees where you can sit in a deckchair with a drink and a burrito, reading your book or simply soaking up the sun.  Jubilee Gardens is landscaped now and it’s really very tranquil lying on the grass and gazing above the tourists’ heads to watch the London Eye slowly turning against a cloudless sky.
Imaginative Training social media blogWe childishly joined the queue for the Victorian-style carousel and laughed the whole way round as our prettily painted horses bobbed up and down.  I told him about the time Gill and I went on one in Leicester Square on our way to a red carpet film premiere.  She worked in film PR in the eighties so we went to loads of fantastic film events.  I was in fashion then, and wearing a long billowing skirt from a Paris collection sample sale.  J’étais à la mode alors, et vêtu d’une longue jupe gonflée d’une collection vente d’échantillons Paris. (In case anyone would like French subtitles !)

That merry-go-round wasn’t aimed at children – it was quite late in the evening – and it zoomed around so fast we couldn’t catch our breath.  My skirt blew up to cover my face so all I could feel was the wind blasting at me – and it seemed to never end.  We got off dizzy and laughing, with hair and clothes all over the place.  Another example of how we missed out on social media sharing in those days.

I think that was the time we saw Robert Powell and couldn’t remember his name, although Gill knew he was Jesus of Nazareth.  We definitely didn’t look like red carpet attendees after the carousel, more like victims of some biblical plague!  Bit like today, for me.  I spend most of the summer smelling of a mix between citronella and petroleum. I couldn’t use more anti-midge spray on my arms and legs if I tried – but still the little buggers attack me.   People laughed when I wrote on Facebook this week that something invisible flew down my top and chewed me seven times.  It’s not pretty.

I’m not a huge fan of old-time musicals (apart from The King and I, and Seven Brides), so I didn’t realise this came from Carousel:  Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone.
You’ll never walk alone if you follow me.  Here I am: @WeekendWitch.

Thanks to Cybermyth 13 for the Flickr pic

Monday, 22 July 2013

Media royalty, gone to the dogs and a ruined sex life

This week’s feature on me in the local paper’s business section is a great improvement on last time. It doesn’t quite paint me as the next Martha Lane Fox or Michelle Mone but it does give a reasonably clear account of my business.

If you missed it, it talks more about my work training companies to write in plain English than it does about social media marketing. I guess the editor took a view that it’s more niche – after all, there are bucket loads of social media consultancies in London. Mine’s different. Seventeen years’ experience of running a business plus ten years in corporate employment means my clients benefit from a wider marketing perspective.

Last time I was in the newspaper my photo was on the front page, to the right of the main headline in a column titled something like ‘What’s inside’ with small print mentioning me and the page number. That would have been quite nice, had the main headline (right next to my face) not screamed out ‘Doctor ruined my sex life!’

Imaginative Training | Social media blog
Thanks to the Ilford Recorder for pics

I can’t remember the story now, but some poor person had had a vasectomy that went wrong, or something like that. Definitely nothing to do with me. His photo was below the article and mine was next to it, so I’m sure some people must have thought it was me.  It still makes us laugh… (Graphic designers and typesetters take note!)

Not sure about this journalist’s decision to headline me as a ‘Battling mum’ – that’s not quite the businesswoman image I like to portray. Although I guess there’s a bit of the Boudicca about that, which I do like. Former Queen of Essex…? Well, I do have media links with royalty (not social media!). My other newsworthy day was being...

Imaginative Training | Social media blog
Working in my garden…

caught on camera with Prince William, in an embarrassing fiasco with no make up and my hair in a scrunchie. Being shown on BBC news wasn’t my finest moment. The prince was very charming but I totally looked like I’d gone to the dogs. It was amazing that the Telegraph managed to knock ten years off my age; wonder how that happened…

And now I really have gone to the dogs!! We spent Friday night at a greyhound track in the heart of Essex (not too far from Boudicca’s kingdom, actually). First time I’ve been for years and not quite as glamorous as a day at Ascot (which I’ve never done by the way) but such fun. Although, we were a little bitchy about some of the dogs – too tall, too small, spindly legs, too spotty – reminded me a bit of nights out at the Ilford Palais…

Some didn’t look too impressed at having to run around after a mechanical rabbit (no, Sue!) and tried to wander off to lay in the 85 degrees evening sunshine. And one looked really miserable with its tail between its legs – I’d never actually seen that before and it’s kind of weird to see a metaphor come to life. It was really too hot for the dogs, and too hot for me.

Mrs Loud knows what to do. “Will you cater to every fantasy I’ve got? Will you hose me down with holy water if I get too hot? Will you take me places I’ve never known?” I can take you places! Just follow me here: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to inyourfaceblogspot for sharing the Boudicca painting.  It’s all over the net but I can’t see who painted it!)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Cultural dynamism, making law and being blown away

Wednesday was one of the most gloriously hot days we’ve seen in London this year, so imagine my surprise to emerge from Westminster Station and be almost blown into the Thames by an almighty gust of wind! My balance isn’t marvellous at the best of times, and my shoes were high and pointy… I almost ended up in the lap of a donut seller; the smile on his face was picture perfect.

I’d been invited to Parliament to speak to a bunch of politicians about childhood stroke. Along with my friends Liz, Nancy and a delegation from the Stroke Association’s awareness group, we enjoyed some delicious creamy cakes in the elegant Members’ Dining Room – made me think that there really are some positives to becoming a politician. Seriously… I would love to be a law-maker. There would be no more nonsense in this country if I was in charge for a few weeks, that’s for sure. The afternoon was a huge success. We met interesting people and got our message across that kids have strokes. If only I’d had the forethought to brush my hair before the official photos!
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The journey home was vile in that 100˚ heat. I moaned about the underground recently here, so I won’t remind you of the thousands of people squashed together and sweating on each other in conditions reminiscent of the Victorian age. I’m sure some were passed out but remained upright as there simply wasn’t room to fall. However, while we’re on the subject, I did post on Facebook last week about a delightful morning journey in which the woman indiscreetly breastfeeding opposite me caught the attention of the man sitting next to me who joyfully started to touch himself!! London really is a super place to work!

Actually, it really is – London is fantastic!! You won’t find a more diverse, cultural, historic, dynamic, architecturally beautiful capital anywhere in this world. The City of London festival runs for another week, with free art and cultural events happening all over the place – most of my friends don’t even know about it and it’s right on our doorstep. But that’s the beauty of social media. I follow what’s going on through Twitter and retweet the best stuff.

Gill’s going to Maxwell’s in Covent Garden today. They don’t appear to be on Twitter but they do have a Facebook page, although it’s not updated all that often. We spent many summer evenings there in the 80’s, when it was a novelty having lettuce in your burger. The vibrant atmosphere typified everything that was brash and bold back then and we loved it!!

Something else that’s bold (and may be brash, too soon to say) is the Olympic Park redevelopment. I attended a networking evening this week in a hotel overlooking the park, with a wonderful barbecue (lettuce on the burgers, melon and everything!!), free flowing Pimms and, unlike last year, I didn’t trip up and accidentally grab anyone’s willy.  Anyway, Newham’s regeneration officers pointed out the new skyline and it’s going to be like another impressive, high tech mini Canary Wharf. Lots of business opportunities there. And burger bars.

So, a visit to Parliament and major skyline changes to London in one week. Tom Bailey (who smiled down on me as I slept in 1983) was quite right in saying, Have you heard the rumour going ’round? There’s gonna be big changes in this town. And there’ll be no more fighting, no more fuss – you’d better listen to us… (Have you heard that love, love, love is the law?)

It’s not the law that you follow on Twitter, but I’d love it @WeekendWitch

Monday, 8 July 2013

Writing lyrics, pounding the rocks and strengthening your SEO


Imaginative Training | Social media blog
Lots of annoyed comments by email about the lack of lyrics last week!  It’s weird how people email or Facebook message rather than writing directly on the blog – why is that?  Aside from anything else, if you have a business website, engaging in a blog conversation is an excellent source of backlinks, which strengthen your search engine optimisation (SEO).

I am sorry.  There’s nothing else I can say.  I wrote the blog quite late at night, I was excited about my date the following evening (not a date… NOT a date!!) and I simply forgot.  I did realise on Monday when I checked my twitter feed, and it was a toss-up whether or not to add something.  But I decided it would be a good test to see if anyone actually notices, and – oh yes, people noticed.

To live without my music would be impossible to do, cause in this world of trouble, my music sees me through.  Ok now?  How awful would a world without music be?!  What if it really died??  I don’t even know what a levee is, never mind where to find one to drive to.  By the way, I have absolutely no idea why that John Miles song popped into my head; I haven’t heard it for years, as far as I know.  Unless maybe my subconscious picked it up playing in the tiny county pub we visited this evening, or driving home to Magic FM.

There’s a fine line between lyrics and poetry.  Or perhaps an overlap.  Ben’s asked me again to write lyrics to accompany his music for the new hand-carved zebrawood Bellucci guitar, with mother of pearl inlay on the Macassar ebony fingerboard and intricate gold plated tuners.  It’s a beautiful piece of marquetry – a fantastic creation that’s way more work of art than functional instrument.  He loves it with a passion, so I guess my lyrics need to live up to that.  I’ve made a promise to come up with something this month.  It will make a change from writing clients’ blogs and press releases.

In the meantime, I’ve written the poem that is being displayed in two art exhibitions later this year, and my wonderful artist friend Martyn is busy this week incorporating it into his painting.  It’s a tale of broken love and heartbreak… short, bittersweet, abrupt.  The first exhibition will be held in Cornwall, that wild and rugged county that epitomises everything I love about the English landscape.

I’ll go down for the opening, any excuse to be by the sea!  In fact I’m going to Lyme Regis in a couple of weeks, not too far from Cornwall.  I won’t be fossil hunting this time, just a spot of French Lieutenant’s Woman–type wandering along the beach at dusk.  But I’m thinking that if the mood is right I might go back later this year to write my novel.  I love working with waves pounding the rocks and I’ll be more inclined to concentrate if I’m away from my normal routine.  Or maybe that will be the perfect lyrical inspiration…

So, back to where we started – feel free to comment below.  I’ll just sit here in the Green garden listening to music while I’m waiting.  Got a little radio, held it to my body.   I can feel your back beat boy, moving a muscle of love.  Turn it up and press it – I don’t understand it.  I can feel your message boy, calling me over and out.  Send me your message below – or here: @WeekendWitch.