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Are you a South West entrepreneur thinking ‘why bother with Twitter’?

Today I was asked to write a blog post about Twitter – so I’m happy to oblige.

Why? Well, as a media consultant and journalist I often hear comments like ‘why bother with Twitter?’ or ‘I’m on Twitter but I’ve no idea what to do’.

These phrases are familiar because a few years ago that’s exactly what I thought. When I became self-employed in 2009, I had a Twitter account which sat there doing absolutely nothing. I would occasionally send out a tweet but couldn’t really see how much good it would do for me in business.

However after about 18 months, for some reason, I really thought about it compared with other social media platforms. I realised it’s potentially a great way to connect with people – and here’s the key thing – very quickly with minimum effort. Also as a journalist, I’m often looking for good stories so this could be an effective way to achieve another good outcome. So I set myself a challenge – to give Twitter a year and try to systematically build my audience to work for me more effectively.

I put out of my mind the fact that Twitter is global, has billions of accounts, loads of spam accounts and can be risky in terms of trolling etc. I trusted my common sense to deal with these issues as they arose (and they have from time to time and I’ve dealt with them as needed). I decided to use Twitter according to my agenda, my audience and my desired business reach. Therefore good connections for me are in the south west and London, they are people rather than organisations and one key thing – I share, I share a lot, I share as much as I tweet and I share things which interest me or which I think are generally interesting. If you do this, I guarantee at some point someone will say to you ‘I really enjoy your Twitter feed you share some good stuff’ or ‘Oh yes, I saw you talking about that on Twitter’.  You are creating your own news service.

Fiona 2013 - 3

Very quickly, having made that decision to take Twitter seriously, it became addictive and I got engaged in various conversations. I then decided to think about the best times to tweet – and you will find me talking most in the evenings and the mornings.

However the pivotal moment came when I saw a tweet asking for someone who could write a script and who had experience in the education sector. I answered as I met those criteria with a phrase ‘that’s me’. That tweet led to another tweet, which led to an email which led to a telephone conversation which led to a paid-for trip to London for a meeting which then led to a project which paid me £3,000. This was a short-term piece of work which I could relate directly back to a single tweet with a company which would never have found me – or vice versa – if it wasn’t for this amazing social platform.

That sold me on Twitter and I’ve had many great outcomes since. I’ve been offered work by people who’ve engaged with me, made the effort to research me online and then offered me work. I’ve been able to place publicity for clients and myself, and I’ve raised my profile in my own community in the south west. I will often go into a room full of business people – many of whom I’ve never met – and  people start talking to me as if they know me. Talk about the best ice-breaker.

Another outcome is that those who are beginners now pay me to get them started on Twitter – a totally unexpected outcome. So I’ve actually put my ad hoc strategy into something more strategic and started to apply it across Facebook and, more recently Pinterest. I don’t claim to be an expert, I just understand the concept of social conversation over the internet and how to control some of that conversation. I’m still discovering and I often go to workshops by others to increase my own personal knowledge.

My top tips are:

Really be clear as to what is a good outcome on Twitter for you. That way you can track success.

When you make a clear connection – take the conversation from the virtual world to the real world.

Share, share, share.

And finally please follow me @mum3fi

 

Director of The Graham Norton Show talks about his ‘other job’ – as a carer

Does anyone care about my new job –  as a carer? 

Robert (front) and Steve before chronic fatigue syndrome struck.

Robert (front) and Steve before chronic fatigue syndrome struck.

What do you think when someone tells you they’re a ‘carer’? 

Do you think ‘well you’re retired, you’ve got grey hair, and such a thing often happens at that time of life” (in other words ‘what do you expect?’) or ‘oh no, now I’m going to have to listen with sympathy to someone with a sob story and I haven’t got the time or the interest.’?

Then, when someone who is a carer actually starts talking about the reality of their daily life, do your eyes glaze over and you drift away, immediately giving out the message that it’s just too much information? You didn’t really want to hear all of that stuff?

That’s what happened recently to renowned television director Steve Smith, who lives near Marlborough, Wiltshire. He was attending a big social red carpet event in London recently when someone he’d not seen for years asked him about his life.

“Many people know that Robert and I have been together for a long time and they asked after us. They didn’t know that Robert has an illness and that our lives had changed beyond recognition.

“Very quickly I realized they didn’t actually want to know. As I talked, their eyes glazed over and suddenly you can feel very alone in a crowded room. Your story just doesn’t fit anymore.”

Steve and Robert have made the decision to speak out about their situation to raise awareness around the impact of being a carer for national Carers Week this week.

“We don’t fit any mould or stereotype around caring. We’re a couple who are trying to care for and support each other through an ongoing situation which has changed our lives.

“We are from a higher income background where we used to a modestly privileged lifestyle (we have never wasted money). Now we’ve learned some hard life lessons. We do live in a beautiful village in a beautiful home but we still struggle to cope week on week. Our home is under threat – while we’ve been fortunate to have a buffer against the unexpected, which most people do not, now that buffer is very thin and we are having to carefully consider major changes.

“The lesson learned is that fortune can change on the spin of a coin and social position is often of little protection.  When you are brought low, there’s very little real compassion out there.”

Many of us will have seen Steve’s work without even realising it – he’s the director of the Graham Norton Show aired on Friday nights on BBC1.

In his professional life, Steve works with people who are celebrities and it’s his job and make sure what we see on our screens is the best possible, and most interesting view from all angles.

But does anyone really want to see Steve in the same way? Steve does a job he loves and one he’s passionate about. Yet what aspect of his life interests you the most? Is it his professional role on a national television programme or his personal role at home – as a carer?

The role that consumes most of Steve’s life isn’t one he has chosen. He didn’t apply for the job and get it based upon his skills and life experience. It’s not one he planned for or had a forward-thinking strategy to deal with.

However, it’s the role he’s had to immerse himself in for the last seven years – and there’s no end in sight.

“When I first met Robert he was like Peter Pan. He was an outgoing, good looking, a physically active man and now he’s often unable to get out of bed, has very little energy, and is often too ill to engage with anyone.”

Steve cares on a daily basis for Robert, who faces a struggle with Chronic Fatique Syndrome . Some days, sometimes for weeks, Robert is bed-ridden. On other days he is able to get out, possibly for a few hours but his stamina is poor. Robert is terribly isolated by his condition – and so is Steve.

Steve said: “We had such an active life before this situation took hold. We embraced life to the full. Now we don’t accept invitations anywhere to anything – because we can never be sure that Robert will be well enough. We don’t want to let people down at the last minute. So eventually those invitations stop coming and our world has just got smaller and smaller.

“For his (Robert’s) mother’s 60th birthday, we went back to his family’s home in Yorkshire and he spent the whole weekend in bed. We did try to go out for a little walk, but Robert managed about 100 yards and that was it, he just had to stop. He just couldn’t walk any more.”

(this is part one of Steve and Robert’s story, the second part will be published on Sunday).

 

 

 

Race for Life was an emotional event for anyone affected by cancer – most of us!

At the weekend, my 12 year old daughter Georgia took part in her first ever fundraising event – the Swindon Race for Life to raise money for cancer research.

Starting out...

Starting out…

She’d decided to do this only a short time ago after being inspired by a friend at school who had her hair shaved off to raise awareness when her mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was puzzled by how this one event had affected my daughter so much. After all, cancer is a disease we’ve had knowledge of. We have two close friends who are facing it as we speak, three other friends who have had it and are in recovery. We’ve also lost family members to it. However it was this one particular case which caught her imagination.

Very quickly, with the help of lovely Linda, our childminder and a regular Race for Life participant, Georgia planned her strategy and set a target of raising £50. She took it upon herself to gently tell neighbours she was doing the event, telephoning family members to let them know and mentioned it to all of her friends at school. Very quickly she’d raised £45. I mentioned it on social media, not an appeal for money, merely a mention.

It was this which showed me just how deeply as a society we are affected by cancer. The following day, another neighbour who’d seen my social media post, put a donation through the door of £40. The same day, another friend who doesn’t live locally, called and pledged another £25.  Very quickly she’d raised well over £100.

On the day of the race, Georgia left early to warm up and prepare. As we arrived to support her, we walked across Lydiard Park and I wondered how many people would be there. After all, the event has been running in the town for several years. I could not believe my eyes when there was a sea of pink before me – and that didn’t include supporters. Thousands of women, of all shapes, sizes and abilities were gathered to do their bit.

Waving everyone off on the 5km course, wave after wave of women walked, ran or jogged past and it showed how many lives are touched by this disease and the human price of it began to hit you. The emotion was so unexpected. Apart from seeing my own child go off to do this event – I marvelled at the older lady in her mobility scooter, the girls with their hula hoops and the mums with pushchairs on their way.

You're never too old to fight cancer

You’re never too old to fight cancer

It was a day when I was proud of my own child, but also proud of Swindon and of all of those women who had gone out of their way to raise thousands and thousands to help beat this awful disease. We’ve pledged to do the event next year – and this time, I’ll be joining in with my other daughter as we both felt our little effort, matched with the little efforts of thousands of others, all turn into one big effort to defeat this dreadful disease in all its forms.

We Did It!

We Did It!

 

Wiltshire journalist shares her story to inspire women throughout the UK

Have you ever thought – I’d like to write a book? I’d like to tell my story? Can I write a book? Would anyone actually be interested? 

 

As a person who does a lot of writing as part of my business, it may seem strange to tell you that I’ve often asked myself all of the above. When I was a child I always wanted to be an author but, as I got older I wondered if I truly had anything to say of value. I was also pretty sure I couldn’t sustain a story of fiction for long enough.

After several years of running my own business I realise that I do have a lot to say, and some people will want to hear it.

 

In fact, I’ve learned that we ALL have something to say and there will always be those who want to hear it. All of us have value.

 

Once I truly accepted this fact, I found it surprisingly easy to share one of my stories. I’m now in a place where I’m not worried about those who don’t want to listen – those people will always be around – I’m reaching out to those who are life’s do-ers. Those who at least have a go at their ‘thing’ and those who want to live life with few regrets.

This week, my first foray into writing about myself in a book came to fruition. The book – available on Kindle – is Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KB2XRYI .

It tells stories from a dozen business women from across the south west who want to encourage and inspire other women to try and to persevere if they want to start or develop their own business. Each story is very different. It’s thanks to my women’s business club – I Am Woman – that I’ve finally taken the plunge. I’m already thinking now about doing an entire book covering many aspects of my professional life.

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story shared in Playing & Staying At The Top of Your Game

My story about starting my own business and what I learned in those early days is not what you think. I’m not the business person who nurtured an idea, let it grow and then went into it with rose-tinted glasses and making a million in a month. My story is very different.

I had my dream job – and I lost it. I never wanted to be self-employed, I didn’t want to run my own business and I was devastated that life had thrown me such a curve ball. However, I couldn’t change the fact that this had happened. All I could control was what I did next – and that’s the story I tell. Looking back, I realise my more negative start actually stood me in good stead. It didn’t mean I didn’t make any mistakes – I made loads. But my view was always realistic and I seemed to be able to spot when something wasn’t working. To find out more, of course, you’re going to have to read the book.

Is this being arrogant? Some might think so – but why do we women often feel embarrassed about blowing our own trumpet? Is it because men think less of us? Not in my case – I actually think it’s more because some women think less of us. Some cannot stand the fact that others are more ‘out there’ than they are. Women can be women’s own worst enemies. Truth is, I don’t actually care what anyone thinks, those who are interested will read the book, those who are not – won’t.

So I’ll end on these two notes – the woman who writes thousands and thousands of words each year about others has now written some words about herself. She also remembers one very important lesson in life which has sustained her. It was a saying which a teacher, Christopher Drew, put into my autograph book on the day I left primary school back in the 1970s. It’s always reminded me that life is always a journey of discovery and, thankfully, there’s so much more left to learn:

‘HE WHO KNOWS NOT AND KNOWS NOT THAT HE KNOWS NOT. SHUN HIM FOR HE IS A FOOL’.

 

Swindon PR guru takes time off by visiting Exmoor’s hidden zoo.

Have you ever been to Exmoor Zoo? Have you ever heard of Exmoor Zoo?

If you haven’t I’d heartily recommend a visit. Situated in the Devon countryside, down a little country lane, this zoo has more of a family feel than any I’ve visited. We were spending a weekend in the Exe Valley so this location was less than an hour’s drive away.

While nowhere near the scale of Longleat Safari Park or zoos in Bristol or Paignton, it has a charm all of its own and is suitable for families, or those without children.

We visited over the Easter bank holiday and the cost was less than £50 for five of us. Given that’s close to the cost of a cinema visit for us, we hoped it would offer at least a couple of hours of enjoyment and entertainment. We arrived at 11am and left the premises at around 3pm.

When we arrived it was already busy but there is an additional car park as the one near reception is quite small. One tip is to use the toilet on the way in as there are no toilets around the site. This is due to the site not being connected to the mains (it’s all explained on notices around the reception area).

Immediately on collecting tickets as we’d booked online (be aware a family tickets is two adults two children so, in our case, we had to pay an extra amount for our third child), we were given activities for the children to take part in. For me, this is always a good sign. My children love having to find or discover something. So it was a trail where they could collect stamps of animals and another where they could answer tricky questions and then get an Easter egg at the end.

As my children are a bit older, this meant they often ran off for a short time to fill in gaps on their Easter ‘find an animal’ trail.

The zoo has the sense of being a garden, you move quickly from one animal to the next – but there’s also a feeling that the staff know what you are thinking. There are some spaces where you wonder if that space is big enough for the animal within – then you read the blurb and that question is answered.

There is animal activity all around, so bird, bee and bat boxes which children can look at. I personally love the bigger animals but found myself enraptured by the smaller ones too.  I didn’t get the feeling of there being animals which were just ‘making up the numbers’. Even the sparrows had their own special spot.

On site, there are lots of activities where families can get involved in including talks, feeding the animals and holding animals. We’re not good with this in our family, we tend not to like to stick to any timetable or dictate our time around set events, but plenty of families did take part. As you walked around you heard them saying they had to be ‘here’ or ‘there’ at a certain time.

Anticipation was built up by continuous reference to the Exmoor Beast which intrigued the children, who love a sense of the mysterious. So it was quite magical when the zoo’s own beast, languidly stretched, walked down from its perch and marched around its pen.

Another thing which I enjoyed was the good use of the natural landscape and of look-out points around the site. Some of the site is quite steep and rugged, but the animals seemed to like it. Don’t get me wrong, the site is quite accessible, though some paths will be trickier for pushchairs and possibly wheelchairs.

Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire

One of the pumas resting in the sunshine at Exmoor Zoo

 

 

The only odd point was one small enclosed look-out area, overlooking the antelope,  where there was a picnic table in the middle where a family had stopped for lunch. In this small space, this seemed to have two effects, putting off some people from going into have a look across the enclosure as there wasn’t a lot of wriggle room, or interrupt the family who found themselves being watched closely as they tucked into their sandwiches.

Also one of the children’s Easter egg discoveries was in this small enclosure, so it encouraged more and more eager children to mill around the eating family. If I had one tip, it would be to remove that seating as it did seen to give visitors a confused experience. Families do tend to create a private bubble around themselves so it’s easy to feel like you are intruding on them.

However, further around the site the play area for children is very spacious and there’s plenty of picnic room. There’s a small café on site and the quality of the food is excellent. Much better than in other venues. The price tag for five came to £40 but this is fairly normal for us – and in many places would cost far more.

All in all – it was a good visit, value for money, more educational than expected and lots of fun. Even the small egg given as a reward for the children completing the trail was decent and not a disappointing, tiny, hollow piece of low-grade chocolate.

Find out more here –  http://www.exmoorzoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Grandparents inspired to take action after daughter-in-law’s traumatic pregnanc

This article was first published in January 2014 in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald.

Grandparents Bruce and Bev Bodio are on a mission to help expectant mums deal with difficult pregnancies.

The couple, who live in Stockwood Road, Devizes, were so inspired by an invention which helped their daughter-in-law Carrie, that they’ve turned her story into a business venture.

Carrie, who’s 43, gave birth last year to her daughter Evie after going through a pregnancy which almost crippled her.

“When I had my older daughter Millie ten years ago, I developed a hernia. These can cause problems for pregnant women in varying degrees. Basically it causes aching, a dragging sensation, stinging and can be agony when you are on your feet for any period of time.

“With Millie, it was there and it was achy but it was manageable. However, when I became pregnant with Evie the weakness was already established and things became much, much worse.”

During the second trimester of the pregnancy, the hernia in Carrie’s abdomen got bigger and caused constant pain which restricted her movements.

“Very quickly, I was so debilitated I couldn’t even stand to make a cup of tea. I couldn’t go shopping or do anything without holding my abdomen to relieve the pressure. The only relief was to sit down all of the time.

“I ended up going to the hospital and was told that I would need surgery once the baby was born and I just had to put up with it. They wouldn’t do anything during the pregnancy because of the risk to the baby.”

Various aids exist in the UK to help women with pelvic, hernia or back pain during pregnancy but for Carrie, they didn’t work.

“I looked and tried the belts on the market and found they were expensive, ugly, huge bands which were uncomfortable, unsightly and they didn’t work for me. I wouldn’t have been able to wear them with leggings or nice clothes.”

Carrie tried several do-it-yourself attempts to support the hernia, including wrapping a coat belt around her abdomen so she could go out. Nothing worked for any length of time.

“Eventually,  I gave up and did some research online to try to find something which was more suitable.”

That research led her to contact an American mum, Caroline Christensen, who also suffered hernia problems during her pregnancy. Like Carrie, she couldn’t find any product on the market which worked – so she designed her own.

Carrie said: “She told me she’d love to sell in the UK but didn’t have any idea how to do it and the cost of buying a single item and having it delivered here  pushed up the cost.

“I was so desperate to get something which worked – but there was always the risk that it would be a waste of money. For most people when they are having a baby, they don’t have money to throw away.”

Carrie took a chance and received the product known as the Baby Belly Band. She also told her family about it.

“Within minutes of putting it on, I felt like a different person. I felt secure, it’s flexible and I knew it couldn’t hurt the baby as it’s soft and stretchy. Overnight my life was transformed. I could wear leggings and nice clothes without worrying that everyone could see I was wearing a ‘hernia aid’.

“I’m not one to bang on about this or that wonder product but this simple invention gave me such freedom.”

Unbeknown to Carrie, her finding the Baby Belly Band was only the start of this story.

Mother-in-law Bev said: “I decided to look into the product and do some research. To see the transformation in Carrie who was finding it difficult to stand or walk, made me realize that we had to do something to get this out to other women affected by hernias.

“Women with these problems can face months of discomfort, worry and stress which is just not healthy for them or their babies.”

Bruce said: “I’ve been self-employed for 20 years and am a specialist in helping companies sell their products internationally. This is my area of expertise. Carrie knew I did something to do with distribution and mentioned the belly band to me, but that was it.

“I just couldn’t believe that one day she couldn’t even make herself a cup of tea and the next day she was able to go shopping in Bristol.”

For information on the Baby Belly Band, which is licensed as a medical product, visit www.babybellyband.tel

Or e-mail bev@tricorn4.com

 

 

 

Fracking – is it on your radar yet? Coming to the south west in 2014….

This is an article which appeared in the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald on January 2 2014 and includes an interview with mum Becky Martin, a scientist by profession.

As 2014 dawns, it could be a very important year for one campaigning mum from Wiltshire.

Becky Martin is the parent behind a new group Frack Free Families which campaigns against the removal of shale oil or gas from the ground – even if it’s for exploration purposes.

Already Becky can be seen handing out leaflets in town centres across Wiltshire, including Salisbury and Swindon, as well as joining forces with other concerned groups. She recently spent day at a protest at Barton Moss near Irlam, Manchester where drilling took place in November and December.

“I became interested in this subject some time ago as a scientist – I’m a biologist and had a career in cancer research before having my son.

“I looked into hydraulic fracturing and did what research I could and I was horrified. I just had to do something about it.

“This is entirely outside my comfort zone. I’ve never campaigned about anything before or taken such a strong stance on any issue. With this subject it was a case of ‘I have to do something about it’.”

Becky often takes her two-year-old son Aidan with her when she hands out leaflets to make the point that families will be affected by this search for a new energy source.

“Being a mother has been the driving factor behind this for me. What are we leaving behind for our children? We could be risking their health with this process and it’s insanity.

“Even taking that into account, it isn’t even going to deal with our long-term energy needs. Even if shale gas was magnificent, it isn’t going to solve our energy problems,” Becky said.

The extraction of shale gas and oil – and in some cases coal bed methane – is likely to become a familiar theme here during 2014. It’s a process which has been used in America for many years but is still in an exploratory phase in the UK. It is just one measure the government is looking at to ensure energy sustainability in the future. Renewables is another.

Becky said: “We have to look at, and invest more in, renewable energy such as solar, wind and tidal power. Shale gas is just too risky and we could be spending money on the burgeoning renewables sector. It’s crazy to me that we’re not looking more seriously at offshore wind farms or tidal power. We’re an island for goodness sake, and that could create a sustainable energy future. We must move away from fossil fuels.

“Apart from anything else, shale gas will not help us with our main addiction when it comes to energy use – our cars. It will not solve the problem of our addiction to petrol.”

A licensing round for exploratory work around is due to be held in the first six months of this year. These licences could allow boreholes to be drilled and/or well pads to be created in Wiltshire. This means companies involved in this exploratory work – such as IGas, Cuadrilla and Celtique – will be able to bid for the licenses.

For Becky this is must not happen. Like many anti-fracking campaigners, she is concerned about the potential for contamination of water sources caused by the process of drilling. She’s also concerned about the long term health effects for communities living around drilling sites.

“Fracking fluid for the process is an unpleasant mix of chemicals. I’ve been told it contains nothing more than that which is under my kitchen sink. However these cleaning fluids are incredibly toxic and we’ll be pumping that into the ground in large quantities. Some of the chemicals used are very, very dangerous such as oxirane.

“There are also risks around what could be released by the process itself. There are naturally occurring radioactive materials in the earth which we would not want to contaminate our water.”

She wrote to her own MP, John Glen, expressing her concerns. He replied in detail:

“It is worth mentioning that the deposits of shale gas identified by the British Geological Survey in Wiltshire are extremely minimal – and located in the north west tip of the county. The majority are in central and northern England.” 

 “I’m afraid that I’m strongly in favour of fracking. I welcome the potential it has to provide with a vitally needed new energy source, and to catalyse a new industry in the UK.” 

However, Becky disputes that there will be any significant creation of jobs for local communities. She claims that in the Fylde area near Blackpool, where the first UK explorations were carried out, only 11 per cent of the workforce was recruited locally.

John Glen also says there is little credible evidence to show that contamination of water sources could occur if proper regulation and procedures are in place.

“It’s important to note the differences between water systems here and in the USA. In the UK, most aquifers like within the first 300m below the surface. Fracking operations will taken place some 2km down – migration of methane or fracking fluids could therefore only occur through fractures in the rock which would allow the chemicals through.”

Becky claims research from America suggests this method of obtaining energy is having adverse health effects on nearby communities – effects which emerge after a period of time. She believes this is not being taken seriously at home.

“There is evidence from Pennsylvania which suggests that children are having frequent nosebleeds, headaches and other problems when they live very close to the drill sites. I would also urge anyone to seek out the film Gasland which looks at the experiences of families living close to sites where shale gas and oil are extracted.”

Becky also claims there are a number of myths around fracking which are common among the wider population. The most common one, she claims, is that obtaining shale oil or gas will bring down the price of energy.

“Many politicians have now openly said that this will not happen including Ed Davey, David Kennedy and Lord Sterne. This will not make energy cheaper.”

Factoids: 

What is fracking? –  or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays once unreachable with conventional technologies.

Germany has taken a different stance and has concluded, due to lack of data, the precautionary principle should be adhered to and a moratorium around fracking is in place.

For the American documentary about communities living near hydraulic fracturing sites – you can find Gasland the Movie on YouTube.

Frack free families can be contacted by joining the Frack Free Families group on Facebook.

 

I’m a parrot with a splash of eagle, hint of dove. What about you?

Since being in business, I’ve come to realise that understanding yourself can be key to success.

There are lots of things I know about myself but when I became self-employed, there was one thing I didn’t know – could I actually do it? Could I generate any money at all through my own efforts?

You see, I didn’t want to be self-employed. I was doing a job I loved and I wanted to carry on doing that job – sadly though that job no longer wanted me. It wasn’t a personal thing, it was a business decision and about 1,000 people lost their jobs at the same time.

Now I am almost at the five year anniversary of being self-employed and I’m still here. I’m not rich by any means but I’m earning my own money, through my own efforts and endeavours and that’s got to be something to celebrate.

However, I’m also wanting to be better in what I do. So I’m taking a course! I’ve been searching for ages for something which will make me better but which will engage me. During this course, which I’ll blog about many times I’m sure, I’ve been reading text books.

I don’t know about you but reading business books has been without fail, a hideous experience. They are mostly badly written, rushing off into different directions and lacking in real life examples. Frankly, many are simply tripe.

But I’ve just read one in a single day. That’s a record. It was called Taking Flight…do look it up. It tells a very simplistic story about birds in a forest who have to act when trees start falling down…no literary masterpiece but it does the job required…it shows how certain personality types can work.

It’s all about personality types – using the DISC model – which until recently I knew nothing about. Now it’s all around me. I’ve had two personality profiles done and they do capture lots of things about me.

The truth is, I do know these things but knowing and grasping the reality are two different things. Applying that truth is also tricky.

I’ve found out – in bird analogy – that I’m a parrot, with a large element of eagle and a quite large portion of dove. I’ve got very little owl though.

If you know this book, the previous sentence will make sense.

The biggest immediate impact is that I’ve started to recognise others around me, mainly in my friendship group and realised that the dynamic is visible. For example, one of my children is very, very caring and very detailed orientated – which drives me absolutely potty. But it’s not her fault, that’s her response to things and that’s okay. Now I know it’s okay, I find I’m not so irritated by the constant questioning and asking the same thing over and over again.

I also spent some time with two old friends and hardly got a word into the conversation – very unusual for me. I ended up feeling that I was of little value as no one seemed that interested in me or anything I had to say. As I started the self-pity dance, I realised that these were two eagles vying for position without realising it. As a personality with both eagle and dove, confronted by this, I simply gave up and shut up rather than expend energy trying to be heard. I don’t feel angry at all, I’ve just realised that it’s better to see them individually if I personally want to feel listened to – otherwise I’ll continually be a spare part.

Now I’m hoping to become better at business through this learning….here goes!

No, I'm not a peacock..I'm a parrot....

No, I’m not a peacock..I’m a parrot….

 

 

 

In God’s waiting room – Mandela and Jean?

Today I’m writing about something very personal – something which those who are connected with me on Facebook may well have picked up already.

The truth is my godmother, who was 93 on Saturday, is dying. She’s slowly slipping away to whatever comes next. My family all knew this would happen at some point and I’m very thoughtful about it today. Maybe she’ll make her way up those golden steps in illustrious company as life seems to be pushing Nelson Mandela in the same direction.

As my family faces this moment, you may think we are all weeping at the thought of losing her – but we’re not. We are sad and reflective. But we’re glad that the end is coming for her. Is that very terrible?

When she was about 88 or so, she had a stroke which, over time, meant going into a supported nursing home. She’s a widow with no children of her own, her nieces were all over 60 themselves. I saw her several times in the home near Bath, where she has received first class care, and took the children with me, which has always delighted her.

But over the last couple of years, health episodes and further strokes have left her in a more or less vegetative state. She is unable to do anything for herself, is unable to communicate at all and it was only her eyes which gave you any clue if she actually knew you were in the room. Being there is more of a duty than a pleasure and that’s the truth of it.

From this information you might think that this is all very sad, an old lady slowly slipping away. But this ‘old lady’ was a strong, feisty woman, outspoken, sometimes ill-advisedly, and in love with her wider family. Born in 1920, she grew up in a poor family, the youngest child. She spent much of her life caring for her brother Bill, who was, what we called then, a spastic but, in today’s language, he was affected by cerebral palsy.

She married Ivan, who then went to serve in Burma during the war. Aunt Jean was, apparently well known as a well-dressed, beautifully turned out lady who lived life to the full. She had no children of her own and, when her parents died, she became a carer for Uncle Bill.

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey....

Wishing my godmother well on her final journey….

That’s what I remember from my childhood- Auntie Jean and Uncle Ivan living in a house with Uncle Bill, who was friendly but a little scary to me. She was my godmother, lived within a half mile of my grandparents, so we saw them often. She did tea and cake very well and had a very long garden with fields to the side where we could sometimes play. Her house felt dark with small rooms, a bit like a hobbit hole. It’s funny what the mind of a child remembers.

Later, after Uncle Bill and Uncle Ivan passed away, she seemed to live a quiet but happy life in her Somerset home and once a week visited my gran, her sister-in-law. They had regular spats, and I guess that was a theme of their relationship. When my gran died my Aunt Jean missed her terribly and made no bones about it.

Now she’s the last of that generation of the family – ironically she was the youngest and lived the longest. I sense she longs to be free of the prison of her body, and although I don’t see her much now, I’m aware that her leaving will widen the gap left by not having any of my grandparents or aunts or uncles from that generation. They filled my childhood to the brim as there were so many of them.

My message to her – good luck and God Bless Aunt Jean. I’d like to think I’d feel the moment when it comes, but I doubt I will. Thank you for all that you were to me and my sister, my mum and my dad, my aunts and uncles and my cousins. I hope what comes next brings you joy.

You know that hidden antique? It’s time to Flog It!

Today’s blog is somewhat different from many as I’m going to appeal to anyone living in Wiltshire, Bath, Somerset or round about to come along and meet me, in person, at Longleat on Thursday July 18!

Well I’m exaggerating a little – I don’t really think anyone will really come to see me – will they? However they might be willing to come along to take part in an event like no other.

Paul doing his 'thing' in front of camera

Paul doing his ‘thing’ in front of camera

 

The truth is I’ll be so busy, the most I’ll manage is a bit of a wave. But you may want to come along to meet my colleague Paul Martin or one of the experts on the day – Flog It! is coming to Wiltshire. I’m proud to tell you all about it, because this show is a joy to work on and a joy to be take part in.

Flog It! is a daytime BBC show in the antiques and collectibles genre which regularly attracts an audience of two million and is currently on its twelfth series. Paul Martin presents the show and lives in Wiltshire with his family.

Normally I don’t shout about this job which I do from time to time but when it’s on home turf – it’s okay. I’m very, very proud to be a small part of a team which produces this ever popular day-time television show.

The premise of the show is that people bring along up to three  antiques or collectibles which will be valued and might – just might – be selected for filming and then the items are sold at an auction a few weeks later. Contributors will see if the valuations given on the day are realised in the auction house later.

This filming day is known as a valuation day with hundreds and hundreds of people attending and making a day of it. Flog It! is an event – it’s a feat of organisation – involves tens of staff who all have a vital role in making the day run smoothly.

My role on the day is to work with one of the experts who will be valuing items. Experts on the day will be David Fletcher, Mark Stacey and Michael Baggott. I’ll be told in a few weeks who I’m working with. It doesn’t matter because they are all good. Behind the scenes there are also a team of off-screen experts who ensure that everyone who attends gets their items valued.

As for me I’ll be working alongside two camera operators, a sound technician and a researcher. I’ll direct filming with an expert as he meets and greets guests, has a sneak preview of some of their items and then settles down to value things for several hours.

When you experience something like this, you realise that filming is like a jigsaw puzzle, many seemingly disparate things are filmed and they all come together in the edit to make a whole programme. It’s my job to ensure there are as many ‘pieces’ to choose from.

Paul will be around and about doing the same thing but also doing ‘links’ those chunks of ‘speaking to camera’ which moves the programme along on air.

And what about Longleat itself as a venue? Can anyone think of anywhere better. I’ve been to some extremely beautiful locations for Flog It! but I’m immensely proud to be in our lovely county.

So, if you’ve got something old which you think might have some value but you hate it, or you think it just isn’t wanted or doesn’t ‘fit’ any more. Come along and make selling it a real event.

Here are the details:

 

Flog It! will be at Longleat House, Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW on Thursday 18th July between 09:30am and 4pm. The items selected at the valuation day will go under the hammer at Henry Aldridge & Son Auctioneers, Unit 1 Bath Road Business Centre, Bath Road, Devizes, Wiltshire, SN10 1XA on Saturday 10th August.

 

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