Fun on the water meadows

‘Susi and I are running a junk art event as part of St Neots festival on Sat and Sun afternoons. If u r free b nice 2 c u. Love, Christine’.

I parked and walked under the bridge and through the Riverside Park towards the fun fair and the sound of the band. Rather disturbingly, the grass on both sides of the path was under water in places, the trees looking slightly uncomfortable about the whole experience, but there again, what do you expect when you grow in the water meadows?

A traditional English August Bank Holiday weekend.

I found Christine and Susi taking photos with the Mayor in front of their gazebo, the banner for the Community Cafe Listeners Project strung across the side. With scissors, glue, tissue paper, scraps of fabric, shiny paper, and miscellaneous bits and pieces (but a notable absence of sticky backed plastic) we were joined by local youngsters to construct rooms and people (and cats) to live in them. The friendly Heart Radio girls parked their van nearby, and who could forget Dave with his pink guitar?

Sadly, the weather grew ever more typical as the afternoon wore on. Everything was moved under the covering of the gazebo, and Dave was despatched to buy coffees and hot chocolate. We held a council of war and decided that a good afternoon had been had by all, but it was time to pack up before our rooms dissolved into soggy cardboard. Maybe we should have tried for boats instead!

The lady who had helped drive everything down earlier wasn’t due back for a while, so I volunteered my haulage services. I walked back to my car and drove it round, while the others dismantled the gazebo and table. The man on the gate gave me a suspicious look. ‘You can come in if you can find a way through’ he said ominously. Driving through the middle of the funfair was somewhat surreal, but then I found a gap between the ice cream van and a tree and headed across the grass to where the others were standing in the field, with the erstwhile shelter rolled up in pieces at their feet.

We packed everything into the back of the car, but there was only room for one passenger, so Susi (being less tolerant of English weather) came with me while Dave and Christine walked back through town. I parked outside Christine’s house and we all met in the pub to dry out.

‘Have you seen Douglas yet?’ Susi asked me.

‘I met him on Wednesday’. I told her about our chat and reminiscences.

‘He’s a very nice man, no?’

‘Yes, he’s lovely’ I agreed.

‘And lonely’ she said meaningfully.

‘Not that lovely’ I answered, firmly.

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Carving out a new commission

I met Susi through a mutual friend. (Interesting aside: when does a friend of a friend become a friend? Because the friend who introduced me to Susi was someone I met through another friend. And that friend was someone I met through my meditation group. So what is the magic that transforms all these people into friends? And how do you know it’s happened? And what if it happens for you and you think they’re a friend but they don’t think that way and to them you’re just an acquaintance or a connection? What happens then?)

I digress (frequently).

Susi is an artist, a painter, a Peruvian, a divorced lady living alone, a mother, a cat-lover. I met her first at a networking group organised by a mutual friend (don’t get me started again) and she asked me to create a website for her. And after that she invited me to her exhibition opening in Bury St Edmunds. It was a lively event, and she introduced me to lots of people, including her former tutor at Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University, the sculptor Douglas Jeal.

A few days later he called me to ask if I would be interested in creating a website for him, and I visited him at the university. I made a day of it because I went there from the 4networking meeting and after I saw him I met up with an old friend from Cambridge, a lady I haven’t seen for over a year since she came to my flat re-warming party (that’s another story).

Douglas is a sculptor and studied at the St Martin’s College of Art in the sixties. We reminisced about student days (mine were a little later than his, but time telescopes after a while), bemoaned the depoliticisation of the current student generation, and wondered about whatever happened to the women’s movement. And looked at images of his works and discussed the aesthetics and practicalities of web design.

It was a good day, and I’m looking forward to working with him.

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A kick up the backside

So, you make a start, and…

Hmmm.

Sometimes you just need to give yourself a kick up the backside – which is a bit of a challenge (anatomically and metaphorically).

Steve Clarke’s tagline: ‘Attitude determines Altitude’, taken from his flying experience, is a great one, and told with lots of humour which brought a real feel-good atmosphere to yesterday’s 4Networking meeting in Cambridge. To achieve anything, you have to believe in yourself.  It’s been said so many times in so many ways.

It can be a tough one to live up to though, on a grey morning with the rain running down the windows, when the last prospect has finally got back to say they’re not interested. Scrub that, forget the rain, it can be even worse when the sun’s shining and all you want to do is sit with a nice glass of something cool and watch the world go by, rather than pick yourself up from another rejection and start again.

I’ve been wrestling with this blog idea. If it’s honest, if it’s me, won’t it just expose all my insecurities? If I play at being confident when I’m not, won’t everyone just see straight through me? How do you square that circle?

How do you find the attitude?

How do you give yourself that kick up the backside?

If you never try, you’ll never find out.

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Confusions of a novice networker

Two talks in five days about using social media for marketing. Both agree on one thing – and it’s fairly obvious, really – the content is key. What you put up there has to grab people’s attention. When you’ve got that, you can get into conversation, establish a dialogue, develop trust.
In that respect, it’s exactly like any other form of networking. Think of a typical networking event – well, maybe not so typical, but a good one – what do you do? You meet someone you may never have met before, strike up a conversation, share a bit of yourself, find out something about them, form an opinion about whether you ‘d want to do business with them(yes, I know sometimes first impressions are way off the mark, but we all do it). Next time you meet, you (hopefully) recognise one another, remember a bit about each other, learn some more. Maybe it’s about the sailing holiday they had off Dalmatia, or the saga about their dog, or their daughter passing her driving test (or failing memorably), or maybe it’s about the special deal they were offering or the new client they’ve just met. It’s all grist to the mill.
Because what you’re doing is developing a relationship with another person. It won’t necessarily get beyond a business acquaintance, there’s no reason why you should start inviting each other to your kids’ weddings (although you might end up doing that years down the line, who knows?)
So what has this got to do with blogging?
I’ve been writing a blog for years – anonymously. At one time, I wrote a minimum of 500 words a day. Thousands of people ( I know, because I checked the stats) have been privy to my innermost thoughts at some time or another. You ‘meet’ people you may never have met before, strike up a conversation, learn a bit about them… etc etc. Some of them I’ve subsequently met in the ‘real world’, some I would now count among my closest friends.
But I’ve resisted blogging as a way of promoting my business – well, not so much resisted it, as not had a clue how to start.
Content is key – and what do you say? How do you grab their attention?
Be yourself, they say. So here I am. Putting a toe in the water. Just like my first 4networking breakfast.

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