How we love the sunshine!

buttercups sml 2

Bob and Saffy loving the sunshine and buttercups

There’s a positive whisper in the air of East Devon. Perhaps it’s been brought on by the recent lovely burst of sunshine and warmth. Everyone has started to get out and about, on foot, on bike and, this being Devon, on tractors. Even the dogs have a smile on their faces as they hurtle through the buttercups. In the evenings, the scent of barbeques is filling the air. Half term saw more visitors to the region, which is how it always used to be.   

Josh sml

Now what shall I choose?

I visited the inaugural Ottery Food & Drink Festival on a very sunny June 1st with my lad, Josh. His appetite, once sparrow-like, has suddenly grown and I laughed as he tucked into an enormous cream tea with a big smile on his face. The festival was busy and buzzy and although we couldn’t stay long, we had a lovely time learning how to fillet a black bream

James Clark filleting fish

James Clark filleting fish

It’s such a joy to see local businesses doing well, and the South West has an extraordinary skill with home-grown produce – just look at Riverford Organic and Darts Farm. There’s been too much doom and gloom over the last few years and, although we’re not out of the woods yet, I feel it’s up to us to make a concerted effort to buck the trend and support each other through in whatever way we can.    

Camping in the rain

Likely outlook this coming weekend

On another note, suffice to say this weekend may not be the time to put your washing out. Because I’m putting the writing aside and going off on a camping trip to River Dart Country Park – and this is always a pretty strong indication that there will be rain, and even thunderstorms. Hope the tent doesn’t leak!

Social Media – No Mystery!

When I was first asked to run a Facebook and Twitter account for a client one whole year ago I have to admit I was slightly nervous. Although I have a personal Facebook account, I wasn’t sure how it would work being the voice of a client. What would I say, would people like what I’d posted, how could I get the ‘likes’ up?Facebook-LogoNever one to walk away from a challenge, I took the account on and over the next three months learned what worked and what didn’t. Primarily I realised that on Facebook images are key – and as the client was an African volunteering placement specialist, there was plenty of opportunity to find and post fantastic pictures of wildlife as well as run caption competitions. It all worked, the ‘likes’ went up and there were a number of enquiries generated via Facebook. Twitter became second nature as I set up a week’s worth of tweets via the Hootsuite system. I kept an eye out for all sorts of interesting snippets to tweet, such as animal events at the National History Museum. I also became quite emotionally involved with the rhino crisis whilst reading heart-breaking stories of poaching – and survivors of poaching.twitter-logo-1

In the summer I was asked to take on several different accounts – a luxury country house hotel and a travel portfolio. These two have presented different challenges, particularly the hotel and Twitter as there is a marked increase in two-way traffic – I need to be right on the ball when answering questions or dealing with complaints. My most recent account is associated with Bear Grylls – not the man himself but one of his joint endeavours. The great thing is that if you mention anything to do with Bear, thousands of people immediately like what you say, whatever it is!

Facebook has changed with its stock market flotation, and the drive to make money is seen in the promotion costs and if you want to promote a post, you pay. Understandable with businesses, but the concept has crept into personal accounts – I’m really not sure if I want to pay to promote my personal life, but there may come a day?

Before I started running social media accounts I was a Twitter sceptic but I now feel very comfortable with tweeting, @s and hashtags, including that strange tradition of #FF. In fact, one of my clients receives tweets from someone looking for new business from Monday #MM to Sunday #SS – not sure if he realises just how irritating this has got!

As we move into 2013 I’m being asked to think about other social media – pinterest-icon_logoPinterest is one I’ve started playing with, but I’ve yet to get stuck into Linkedin in a major way. The thought of learning something new in social media is exciting and challenging. The only thing I have to keep an eye on is just how much time I spend in the virtual world that is social media – a walk round the garden in the sunshine (and there is some out there today) is the best tonic!

Getting Under the Skin

One of the things I most enjoy about my work is the variety of subjects I get to research. Take this week.

I handle social media accounts for a number of agency clients, posting daily updates on Twitter and Facebook.  One minute I’m looking at the snowfall in Val d’Isere, the next I’m finding out about the Christmas Market at Gloucester Quays. On another day I learnt about the wide variety of bug life in South Africa and a hotel in a sewage pipe (sic)!

I’ve also been writing blogs for clients and this week I found out all about wildlife on Wimbledon Common. Yes, I’m sure the Wombles do exist but who’d have thought that Koi carp reside in one of the lakes? Then I had a peek at things to do in Central London on New Year’s Eve. For my money, it’s the free Lord Mayor’s firework display that comes out on top there.

Back to heating and plumbing, with an article about underfloor heating and another on heat pumps in retrofit. Regen SW had their annual green energy awards and I had written an awards submission for one of the shortlisted companies. Sadly they didn’t win, but there were a lot of great companies up for this particular award.

I’ve said before that I have never been given a subject to write about that defeated me, although artificial intelligence and hill climbing came close (Dept of Maths, Leeds Uni, cripes!).  So, what’s next on the horizon?  It’s an article about my own experience as a rusty rider. More of this when the article gets published – I do hope the magazine likes it!

Where Did The Summer Go?

I think it was September 1st when I stood outside in the early evening and felt that autumnal chill. “Hold on,” I thought, “I don’t remember there having been enough summer to justify it being over.”

I do remember that the kids had their holidays – one to pony camp and the other to an outdoor activities centre – and that I managed two nights at the Beautiful Days Festival (going down a helter skelter after a couple of pints of scrumpy was an interesting experience), but we’ve not had any of those lovely evenings sitting on the beach eating fish and chips, a perk of living reasonably near to the coast.

My summer seemed to consist of sitting in front of my laptop and running the kids around. I can’t complain, I suppose, because the workload was immense during August, not bad for a freelance writer in a double dip recession. Loads of press releases for busy clients, more feature articles about heating and plumbing than I care to remember and lots of entries for regional and national awards.

So the children are back at school, both at secondary now and the term-time juggle begins once more. What time is ballet, is there gym this week, where’s your homework, did you do your piano practice? The joy of freelancing is flexible working hours, the downside is needing to be able to jump when asked, which is frequently.

September, of course, began with some lovely sunshine, always depressing when you’ve spent the summer staring out at the rain. There is something nice about this season, however, and the lull before the Christmas madness begins. Work is levelling off and I might even manage to sneak out for a coffee with my much-neglected friends!