Sunday, 2 March 2014

And That Was February Speeding By...

Ok, I admit to being totally freaked out by the fact that I'm writing another monthly review post so soon. It was just Christmas right? How can we be into March already? I feel like I'm living with a mild case of time-induced whiplash.

When I thought I'd better sit down and write this, I imagined I'd be struggling to fill the page without having to resort to  telling you about the month's more mundane lowlights and typing out my daily timesheets to make it prove that stuff actually happened. As it turns, out, it's been quite a busy 28 days and, should you care to spend a few minutes scrolling on downwards, I hope you'll agree that 2014 is continuing in a full-on fashion.

So as is my habit, and in the manner of an easy-reader with big pictures and few words for adults who might also be suffering with brain overload, here is my February...

Mr Apple and I cheekily headed off for a little break at the gorgeous Wellington Arms. Not far away but a hundred miles from the every day. It was a dream and I thoroughly recommend it.

I got completely hooked on the Winter Olympics and admit to getting the kids to pretend they're in the curling final when I want them to sweep the kitchen floor.

I also developed a new obsession - Agatha Christie. I've devoured two Marples already and am onto murder number 3.

Planning continues apace for our April trip to Normandy, using my Grandad's log-books to trace where we should go. Am continually talking Mr Apple down from letting the kids watch the first ten minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan' as holiday prep.

I got over-excited with my camera and new lens. Can't wait for Emily Quinton's Makelight 2 in a few weeks time to learn more.

I wrote over ten thousand words of client copy in February for brochures, websites, articles and more. Can't wait for you to share everything when it's all polished & looking beautiful.

February was a sporty month. Son and I played badminton A LOT, I added another hundred or so miles to my walking log and son became Captain of his school hockey team. Proud.

I survived half-term.

A few very interesting meetings were in the diary for February and a couple of very interesting projects have kicked off. Love the buzz of new things.

I had my recruit interview day for the RAF Reserves and all went really well. Next stop, medical and fitness test and, if all goes to plan, I'll be working with the Media Operations squadron. So excited about this amazing opportunity.

We celebrated the first anniversary of the arrival into our home of our beautiful Labrador.

I made and sent some Valentine's cards to some of my favourite people, just to tell them that I love that they love what they do. How can you fail to be inspired by being around such passionate, creative and committed professionals?

I wrote a couple of blog posts that absolutely seemed to hit the spot - one that was basically a kick in the pants to everyone and one explaining why you shouldn't work in the wedding industry.

I spent time with friends, I baked a lot and kept on with my diary and aims for 2014. Hurrah!

I did not get blown away in the wind or swept away in the floods.. Neither did our fences/trees/house so I am much luckier than thousands of people and I know it.

It was my adored son's 12th birthday. I made cake and indulged my penchant for craft and making all the pretty...

We all got into the party spirit with the photobooth (thanks to Perfect Wedding magazine for the printable prop downloads!)...

I baked more cake (pops) and crafted a bit more (very masculine) pretty...

And the birthday boy loved it!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Why You Shouldn't Work In The Wedding Industry

It makes me feel positively ancient to admit it but it's almost a decade since I ran my first workshop for wannabe wedding planners and, in one way or another, I've been coaching, helping and working with start-ups and established businesses ever since.

There are so many reasons why the wedding industry (I actually hate that phrase but that's another post for another time) continues to be such a career draw for people and this niche market is home to some of the most talented, individual, unique and caring professionals out there. There is not a day that goes by when I do not say 'I'm proud to be a part of this'. In short, the UK wedding industry totally rocks. It's vibrant, creative, passionate and friendly. It is, without doubt, bloody brilliant.

However for every reason why people want to work in this sector, there are reasons why they shouldn't. And these aren't little reasons either. They are huge, gargantuan reasons, the proverbial elephant in the room of reasons but still they manage to get ignored, whether by accident or because people have their eyes screwed shut so they can't see them. But my friends, fear not, because I will unleash my inner slab faced realist and outline them all here for you so you can, never again, plead ignorance.

So, you shouldn't work in the wedding industry if...
  1. ... you want to be creative all the time -  every creative still has to file tax returns, deal with expenses and invoices, keep up to date with admin and make time for the mundane, especially at the start when it's unlikely you'll be able to afford other people to do this for you. Ask anyone how long they spend working on their businesses as opposed to in it and you'll see the actual time spent in creative abandon is limited.
  2. ... you want to work on your own - a wedding is a team effort. If you can't handle trusting the other professionals, if you want to control everything yourself or if you can't grasp the fact that you're not amazing at everything, then step away from the wedding job. The most amazing things I've ever been a part of if when I'm a tiny cog in a much bigger wheel - your Mastermind specialist subject isn't the entire industry, it's a little part of it. In short, you'll be more of a team player than you ever have been before.
  3. ... you desperately need a steady, full-time salary - if you're used to money appearing in your bank account on a nice, regular monthly basis without having to really stop and think where it's coming from then give yourself a slap now and repeat the words 'it's down to me to earn my money' over and over until you're saying it in your sleep. Then remember that lots of wedding professionals are amazing whilst also holding down another job because it takes a long time to build up momentum, a long time to earn back all those start-up costs and a long time to be able to pay yourself that nice regular salary. It takes a bride a long time to plan a wedding, it takes a wedding business a long time to see a regular turnover.
  4. ... you don't cope well with rejection - the fact is that you're going to be knocked back. Potential clients will choose someone else, potential collaborations won't pan out, promised coverage won't come off, ideas will be rejected and you're not going to be universally loved. You need to hold onto your idea in your way and be true to you and you will build up a network of like-minded wedding pals and you'll appeal to brides who think you're just the best. But it takes time, tenacity and the ability to bounce on back like a boomerang. Again. And again.
  5. ... you love your weekends - if every weekend is about lay-ins, long walks, late nights on the lash and happy carefree days sans responsibility then don't quit the day job. Weddings are usually at weekends, clients don't often work weekends so want to meet you then, wedding fairs/fayres/showcases/open days are at weekends and you'll have to be there. Saturdays are the new Monday.
  6. ... you don't have a great support network - you're going to need someone to pick you up or talk you down from crazy flights of fantasy and remind you that this is a business not a dream. You're going to need someone who can run the house/look after the kids/not go mad through loneliness when you're out doing you're thing. You're also going to need someone who doesn't go ballistic when it's 9pm on a Wednesday and you're addicted to #weddinghour on twitter. In short, you need people around you who get you and who get why this is so important to you and want nothing more than to see you fly.
  7. ... you want a super glam life - or, alternatively, realise that Instragram lies. For every photo posted of an award ceremony, a dinner, a cake tasting or a glam photoshoot, there are hundreds of untaken snaps of dull days at desks, crazed faces after late nights in front of a laptop or blistered feet after a long wedding day. Who wants to see pics of business plans, financial forecasts or that cup of coffee that's gone cold after a long, slightly ill-timed phone call? Yes, there are many, many great moments but, as the bride wears the unattractive underwear to hold it all together under the designer gown, wedding professionals work sodding hard to look relaxed.
  8. ... you're all about spontaneity - when you get into weddings, you're going to get booked up months & years in advance. Weddings require long term commitment, not just from the people taking the vows but from all those beavering away behind the scenes. 
  9. ... you just love the romance of weddings - it is undeniably wonderful to spend your time at  weddings. However, you're working now, you're not a guest and you're certainly not the bride or the centre of attention. If you've got unresolved issues about your own wedding/marriage/divorce/dress/flowers, get professional help - don't try to become the professional help that others turn to for their own big day.
  10. ... you think you're done with learning - if you can't keep your mind open, if you don't want to improve yourself, stretch yourself, challenge yourself and constantly constantly better yourself and help those around you to get better too then think again my friend. Whether you're reading a blog post full of stuff you didn't know, attending workshops or just meeting new people who open your eyes to new possibilities, you're going to be learning every single day. 
Feeling a bit down? A bit bruised and battered? Loathing me for sucking the life out of this amazing industry? That's ok because if this is the blog equivalent of those excruciating biology lessons where your teachers told you all about sex in a way that made you never ever want to take your clothes off, let along do it, Monday's post will be more like a gossipy session with your friends when everything seemed like much more fun...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Lessons From The Winter Olympics

via Pinterest
I have been in sport heaven over the last few days. The background to my working day has been half-pipes, hog lines, triple toe loops and power-plays. I have been quite the winter Olympics addict.

For me, as someone who regularly takes on crazy endurance walking challenges (100 km in 20 hours - who's with me?), I always see lots of parallels between sport and business. Indeed Mr Apple's brother uses the skills he's developed in coaching some amazing triathletes to also work with businesses and board members. It's all about challenge, perspective, improvement, practice and feedback.

Anyway, the sport that has swept me away this year is curling (see what I did there?). And no,  I'm not just talking about the oh-my merits of the 'Men of Curling' calendar or the visual excitement of the Norwegian men's team trousers. Oh no, there's lots to learn with curling even if, like me, the mere prospect of slithering out on the ice and trying to vaguely remain upright is something you know to be well beyond you.

So, as a little homage to the men and women, here's my take on the lessons that curling can teach us...

  • Feedback is best when you get it at the time - each player gets a review of their stone straight away so they can adjust what they're doing straight away. There's no point waiting until after the game and then saying 'oh, you could have done that differently'. The same is true at work - keep checking in with people, get the feedback, adjust if necessary and get better. Ignorance might be bliss but not for long.
  • Plan to adapt - yes, yes, you need a plan. You need to know what, all things being equal, you'd like to happen. However, things are very rarely equal and that's when you need to adapt and respond. Having to change your plan when you're mid way through it isn't a disaster, sticking to the plan regardless of what's going on around you is. 
  • Bounce like Tigger - bad stuff happens, bad days happen but you still have to bounce back. I don't mean that you need to become some kind of emotionless automaton but you need to find away to brush the disappointment aside and get on with it. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, other people just have a better day than you. Look at what happened, learn what you can and move on.
  • Communicate - I love the way the curlers communicate with each other but please don't feel you need to slide on your knee along the office floor shouting 'haaaaaaarrrrrdddddd' at your team for them to understand what it is you want. But you do need to communicate clearly, with feeling and with passion. Don't keep you head down, doing your own thing in the hope that everyone around you has been blessed with psychic skills. Look up and communicate.
  • Practice, practice, practice - the majority of these curlers are full-time professionals. They're in the gym, they're on the ice, they work with nutritionists and psychologists and all of this work makes them better. They take what they do seriously and they know you get better by working at it. Medals, awards, wins and plaudits don't come to you by divine right. They come after months and years of slog. There are no shortcuts to fabulousness.
  • Support crews - the British curlers have a great support team (including someone who's been there, done that in terms of winning a gold medal) to encourage, advise and keep them relaxed and happy. They also have their families and friends in the crowd and support is key. Losses are easier to take and victories are all the sweeter when you have people around you to share them with.
  • You're in this for the long-haul - this is a long game, with ups and downs, twists and turns and good moments and bad. But you need to keep your eye on the prize, work, work work and never, ever give up because all it needs is a tiny little thing to change everything.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Derrière, Meet Chaussure

There are times when I despair. Proper, full-on despair. The kind that sees me slump across my desk in the manner of a swooning maiden, head resting on my outstretched arms, my groans somewhat muffled by the notebook, magazine or laptop that's taken the brunt of the impact.

You see, I have an amazing step-daughter. A beautiful, clever, loving, funny, kind, and super-talented step-daughter who could change the world, make countless lives better and, I'm sure, totally transform the lives of those lucky enough to get close to her.

But, I despair. I despair because she is happy to coast along, like the proverbial pebble in the stream, tumbling onward but not controlling anything. She's waiting for things to happen to her, for things to be arranged for her or for others to make decisions for her. Instead of taking life by the scruff of the neck, she's giving it the gentlest of placatory pats on the head. There, there life, don't be worried by me.

Yes, yes, I know she's a teenager and I should be grateful that she actually speaks and doesn't just grunt, that she loves to help me in the kitchen rather than staying in her room listening to girl band music and only emerging to row with us and exit again to the sound of slamming doors. And I am grateful - grateful, glad and happy that the daughter-I-didn't-think-I'd-have actually seems to be negotiating her teens without losing it.

However, time is tick-tick-ticking along and she's slip-sliding through a life that could be extraordinary. I hear her making excuses for not doing things, not trying things and not making the most of things and it breaks my heart. So I slump deskwards again, wondering when she'll wake up.

About now, I imagine that you're thinking you've stumbled onto one of those vaguely tedious whining posts where the writer bares their soul in the hope of being flung some scraps of comfort. That's not what this is.

You see, as much as I despair about the beautiful girl in my life, I know she's only a teenager, and a teenager who has had some pretty shitty things happen to her in her life so I can make allowances for her and hope that by example and by encouragement, she can take baby steps towards being the whole person and my despair will turn to pride. And, she's fifteen, she's got time to get it right.

How about you? How much time have you got? Do the opportunities and moments where you could jump forwards, away from the crowd, pass? Is playing it safe from the sidelines better than getting stuck in? What are those things that you really really want? You know, those things that you can barely even own up to because they're so longed for and so personal and there's the feeling that if you acknowledge them and they don't work out, that you'll be pretty crushed. And that deep desire can be almost crippling - the worry of trying, the worry of the work, the effort, the worry of what you might do if actually those dreams work out and the worry, just the worry all the time.

And yet, in that petrified, frozen state, you're not really living. You're not out there, doing, changing, experiencing, experimenting, trying and achieving. You're sleepwalking and allowing the days to pass.

So, this is the post where you get that kick in the pants I'm afraid. As the nasty doctor said when he gave you the yukky medicine to swallow "it's for your own good I'm afraid". Do something, anything, because nothing will change if you don't. It's scary and terrifying yes, but a life that's lifeless should be the nightmare. So, get on with it - whatever the 'it' might be for you. Don't just talk about it, be about it.

As for Emily, she'll be fine, she'll be more than fine. She'll live a life in the light because she's too bright for the shadows.

And she's not the only one is she?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

And That Was January Speeding By...

I'm feeling pretty guilty that it's the evening of Friday 31st January as I type and this little jumble of words is the first blog post of the year that I've managed to put together for me. A shockingly bad state of affairs I think you'll agree but I am a wicked woman and I promise to hang my head in shame, shame I tell you, for at least a few moments.

But, perhaps you'll allow me off of the naughty step when you've read this post because I think that this year has got off to a bit of a flying start. No coughing and spluttering on the drive like an old banger for 2014. Oh no, we've gone flat out, straight into the fast last (or "lane three Tamryn, the limit's the same everywhere" as my ex-cop Dad would no doubt tell me).

So, let's get on with the little review of my month. Ladies and Gentlemen, with the aid of words and pictures, I give you... January...

It rained. It rained a lot. This pleased my dog who liked to divide her time between launching herself into puddles and then huddling under my desk by the radiator drying out. Both of these things made me smile.

Thanks to the dog walking, I'm 10% through my 2014 goal of walking 1,250 miles this year. Go me.

We've booked a week in France for the Easter Holidays - bring on the Normandy Beaches, the food and the wine.

I stuck to my 'friends and family' time resolution. A football match on New Years Day (a last minute equaliser for Reading saved a depressive drive home), bowling, dinners out and after school trips here, there and everywhere. We crammed a lot in.

I have been tinkering with my camera and this shot got a mention in Emily Quinton's Floral Friday. Chuffed does not even begin to cover it.

I was invited to The Wedding Industry Awards and got to hang out with some of my favourite people (above from the left, Victoria Stanton from Fetcham Park, Emma Woodhouse aka The Wedding Reporter/Cloggins, the super talented Eddie Judd and the beautiful Laura Caudery from Fetcham Park.) 

I also treated myself to a night in London after the awards so got some me time wandering around and taking photos of some of the beautiful memorials that mean a lot to me. This one above is, for reasons I'll mention later in the post, very meaningful right now.

This is the powerful Bomber Command Memorial. I'm so pleased I got to see it and was very touched by the tiny poppy that someone had tucked into the back of the airman's boot which you can just make out in this photo.

My beautiful dog continues to be my shadow. She has been the perfect office assistant this month as I've had so much to do - she makes me take a break and I'm all the better for it.

Mr Apple, like the crazy fool he is, has signed up to The Jurassic Coast Marathon in March. I meanwhile, have booked The Hut to stay in whilst he labours up and down the coast path for three days. I think I've won here.

A lovely friend bought me a fabulous gluten-free cook book for Christmas and, miracle of miracles, the pastry recipe is a) easy and b) pretty flipping good. This pecan pie was nothing short of a revelation.

The lovely Eddie Judd (you've met her already in this post) blogged our family photo shoot. Cue more smiles.

Actually, it didn't rain all the time, even if it's felt like it. On a couple of mornings, it was worth getting up super early to at least catch the frost and blue skies before the clouds rolled on in.

Last January I didn't have this beautiful girl. This January, I can't imagine my life without her.

I have written in my 'One Line A Day' diary every day this month. Rain has featured frequently but so have lots of other good bits. I like to be fair.

This is what January should be like. I don't believe I ordered the rain however, I have got through January without a cold, blocked nose or sniffles. Result.

My gluten-free Jam Duffins (doughnut muffin hybrids, keep up) were rather splendid. I love baking and singing badly in the kitchen whilst I do so. Obviously, I save this activity until there's no-one home.

The view from my bedroom window was, on a few occasions this month, spectacular.

Mr Apple and I went to see comedian Miles Jupp at a little venue in Reading. He was great and we laughed a lot. Mr Apple is still repeating some of the lines now but he's not going to be on Mock The Week anytime soon.

I have read A LOT this month. Partly because I love reading and partly because I am loving my historical research at the moment. My subject - the women gun crews of WWII and if you don't know much about these amazing, wonderful, courageous, trailblazing women then you might like to buy an upcoming issue of Pretty Nostalgic where I'll be telling you all about them...

I have also bought my first Agatha Christie novel having developed a slightly worrying addiction to Miss Marple on TV. I have also bought myself Paper To Petal and can't wait for this to arrive either.

And among all this, work has been going pretty damn well too...

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

So, What's In Store For Two-Oh-One-Four?

It's New Year's Eve and I'm sat, as my previous post hinted I might be, by the radiator with my dog by my side, indulging in a few minutes of peace.

I'm not one for resolutions. They don't work for me and they don't float my boat. But, if I am the archetypal donkey, goals set are my absolute favourite type of carrot. They keep me trotting in the right direction and their tempting allure guarantees my own kind of perpetual movement.

So, in a personal post, here's what's in store for my two-oh-one-four...

Walking - I achieved my goal of this year to walk 1,000 miles and next year, I'm aiming for 1,250. I also plan on hot-stepping my way around the Isle of Wight Challenge

Writing - Book number three is starting to tumble from my fingertips and even if it doesn't see the light of day, it will be researched and written by this time next year.

Cooking - I will be expanding my repertoire of recipes and will cook four new dishes every month. They may or may not be universally acclaimed but I'll keep going....

Snapping - After the amazing experience of Emily Quinton's MakeLight Workshop, my love of photography continues. I want to document the year, improve my skills and use my DSLR more regularly.

Eating - I love food and as Mr Apple presented me a copy of the Michelin Guide for Christmas, I now have a list of 12 places to visit this year and visit them I shall.

Reading - I should now perhaps admit my lazy streak and own up to the fact that I can re-read my favourite books over and over. Rather like comfort eating for the brain, I turn to these trusty titles too much. So, in 2014, I will read at least 12 new books.

and, finally, possibly the most important goal of all...

Living - More time with those I love, more breaks and experiences, more fun and maybe a little more time for me.

So, that's what's in store so come on two-oh-one-four, I'm ready and waiting...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas Comes But Once A Year?

Well, it's that time of year again - today I flick on the out-of-office and head down the slope towards Christmas Day.

I love Christmas and for that, I blame my Mum who made it magical every year when I was a little girl. Now, I love Christmas because it still sprinkles magic, albeit of a different kind, over my life on an annual basis.

No, I don't lay awake on Christmas Eve with my eyes squeezed tight shut in case by being awake, I stop Santa from delivering to me. And no, I don't wiggle down my bed in the morning to prod at my stocking with my foot to check it rustles and crackles with the goodies inside.

Instead, the pleasures Christmas now brings are of the grown up variety - guilt-free time with family and friends, time to indulge my passions of reading and cooking and time itself. Time to slow down, to even grind to a halt for a day or two if I choose and time to breathe, relax, recharge and slip away from the noise and craziness for even just a few moments every day and sit, as I am now, against the radiator in my bedroom with my dog at my side, and just be still.

You see, Christmas Day is, in many ways, like a wedding - we plan frantically, we rush around, we arrange pre-event parties and get togethers and we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for just one day. Then, just like a wedding, the day itself flashes by in the blink of an eye, a whirl of wrapping paper, presents, glitter and food.

And, just like a wedding, sometimes you can feel a bit down, a bit flat and a bit blue after Christmas. But my friends, the real secret to Christmas, as with weddings, is to not look backwards. Don't try to cling on to what has past and what can never be again. Don't yearn for the 'one day' and everything that came with it, as fabulous as those things might have been.

Oh no, look forwards and look ahead - there will be surprises around every corner, more moments of happiness, joy and extraordinary emotion than you can imagine because these aren't limited to one day a year or even once in a lifetime.

They are out there, every day, like year-round Christmas presents, just waiting to be unwrapped.