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).

Imaginative Training | Social media training | London | Blog

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.

Imaginative Training and Development | Social media blog
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.