Teaching Blogging at CityLit

blogging workshop at citylit

I am aware of the heavy irony of this blog post, sharing the workshop I recently taught at CityLit, since I've been blogging a lot less in the past few months! But that's the beauty of a blog; it's your corner of the internet where you're in charge and set the rules!

You may have seen that I gave supply teaching a go recently, but I also tried something else new - teaching adults! 

city lit tutor job

My first day-long course was Blogging for Business, and I was a bit nervous! I arrived at City Lit, and firstly had to work out where my classroom was, and how to get into it! Next challenge was finding my register, and working out how to log into the PC. Final prayers were given that my powerpoint presentation would work. Woohoo.

The students were such a mixture, which is always the case with blogging, and everyone's goals and desired outcomes always vary. We had people who were doing something with Blockchain, from people in HR and yoga instructors. This is what can make blogging tricky to 'teach', as its almost just a genre, like writing. It can mean so many things!

My nerves soon melted away, as I realised I had a great bunch of people, and we all had things to share and discuss. Teaching adults is such a different pressure to teaching kids; they've paid some money, given up a Saturday, and expect a return on their investment.

I recieved a lovely email, afterwards, from a student, which sums up this pressure perfectly!

"...we thought WTF were we doing a blogging course on a warm summers day. We agreed we'd leave at lunch if it was as boring as expected. Well we couldn't have been more wrong - it was such a fantastic day, equally great in term of all the useful content and your engaging and captivating delivery of it."

Can you imagine the awfulness of students not returning after lunch? It makes my belly hurt with the thought of it! Ha!

At the end of the session, students are asked to leave feedback too, and again, once collected up and in an empty classroom, I opened with slight trepidation. This feedback goes to the my bosses at the college, and more than that, is just scary to read! It was so lovely to read such positive comments, and I forced myself to allow myself to feel some pride. Its an emotion many of us struggle with, I'd argue women, more than men, but definitely lots of us. So here are some of my comments:

"Phenomenal course."

"Really enjoyed the teaching style and conversations."

"Excellent at picking up and responding to individual people on the course. Would definitely do another course by Ree."

"Great how we individually got advice on our own businesses. Excellent teaching style."

"ReeRee was brilliant - highly entertaining and informative. Way exceeded my expectations."

I hope I haven't jinxed my next one now! I'm teaching "Writing for blogs: A taster" on 11th August (and again in December). Wish me luck! Teaching kids is much easier!

 

Jerry the foster cat is no longer a foster cat

jerry feline friends adoption.jpg

Jerry the fostercat has finally gone to his furever home. He arrived exactly 12 weeks ago, and after taking about two weeks to brave his way from under the bed, he settled in to being the perfect little cat pal. Unassuming, but loving, he would mew quietly when hungry, and curl up on my bed just chilling for most of the time. He wasn't interested in cat toys, nor catnip. He loved the same piece of string that my first fostercat Bronwyn loved though, who knew hessian string could be so exciting!

adopted jerry.jpg

When I foster, I take a lot of mental effort to not 'fall in love' with the cats, and I'm quite conscious about the language I use in my mind, and when I talk about them. They've never mine. They're always called my foster cat. I talk about their future forever homes, and when they'll be ready to find one. It's called a failed foster when a foster carer decides to adopt instead, and foster homes are hard to find, so I'm proud to be one.

It's often said that fostering saves lives, which may sound a tad dramatic, but it is true. Cats that need a new home can only be taken in if they have somewhere to actually go. I don't think people fathom how many cats there are that are in need, and it's easy to just think that charities can just absorb the impact. But every cat needs an actual bed, and charities are full. They can't magic up space everytime someone decides they can't care for their pet anymore, or when an owner dies. Or when a new stray cat is found. A foster home allows a cat to be take in, and provides that window of time for a permanent home to be found.

Jerry was originally fostered in the hope he could return to his home, after his owner become ill. That's why he was with me for a while before he was listed as available for adoption. Sadly he was unable to return home, but I still enjoy the idea that his owner knew that his cats were being taken care of, and that he had the possibility of having them back. People's cats become their families, and when people (perhaps financially struggling, or isolated) are ill, the possibility of having their pet fostered and returned is a magical gift to give someone.

Jerry is now with his permanent owner, and she's already sent me some pics! He's braved some strokes, used his litter tray and had some food. So I'm relieved that he'll soon be sleeping on her bed too, and feeling safe and secure.

I had planned to have a cat-fostering break as I have a holiday next month, however....it's hard to say no, and I think I have one due at the end of the week!

Dress for Success - A charity that is helping get women back to work

Last week I did my first day with Dress for Success, which is a global charity that works to empower women into becoming financially independent. Basically, it means they help assist women get back into work. They do this largely by providing interview clothes for women who have secured a job interview, but may not have access to appropriate workwear. They also provide interview practice.

dress for success.JPG

The women that visit the boutiques are referred from a variety of agencies, from job centres to other charities to social services etc. They are often women who have been out of work for a long time, or even never been in work. Getting a job can be life changing, and while clothes may seem shallow, can you imagine the impact on your confidence if you had an interview, but no appropriate clothes? Interviews are all about judgements, and turning up in the 'wrong' clothing can really ruin your chances of getting hired.

dress for success london.JPG

My job as a volunteer is to act as stylist and confidence booster. The guests can be nervous, both about their upcoming interview, and the actual vist to the boutique. The stock isn't on view, so the 'stylist' element comes into play when you pull items for them to try on; the guests don't get access to the full stock room. If you've seen Say Yes To The Dress on TV, it's a little like that. A few items get pulled/selected for you, and you work from there.

It was a busy first day, as we had 5 appointments to oversee. I loved it. I loved selecting an outfit for a woman that would make her feel awesome. I loved being allowed to be part of the guests' journeys; this could well be the start of a brilliant new chapter for them. There were tears and hugs, and even a Prada dress.

If they're headed off to an interview, we kitted them out in a complete outfit where possible. This means an outfit, shoes, a bag and a coat. We even had brand new Louboutin perfume to gift too. Oh and jewellery.  If they've got the job (apparently 50% do!) they can return and get kitted out in a week's worth of work clothing.

Clothing matters. Confidence matters. Being employed matters. 

So what next? Dress for Success need donations. The items need to be new or really great quality second hand. Interview ready clothing. At the moment, the London branch is particularly short on interview bags, and all plus size clothing. When we had plus sized guests, we struggled to offer things over size 22, and we really need donations in these sizes.

You can find out more about how to donate here

I can't wait to do my next shift! 

My weakness is also my strength (my ephiany from the past two days)

strengths and weaknesses

The picture will make sense soon, I promise. Yesterday, during my first class of a "Writing for Magazines" course I'm starting, I felt very self conscious of one of my personality traits. I'm naturally an 'alpha' of any group, I have ideas to contribute, and I'm not afraid of talking in public. I lead. I dominate. During the class, I really tried to stay more passive, for example, keeping quiet when the teacher asked for input, and asking others questions about fellow students' ideas before offering my own. However, sometimes (actually pretty often) people just don't seem to have an idea they're willing to share, and I find the awkward pauses too painful, so I'm often the fallback to break the silence. In these situations I'm awkwardly aware of how loud I am, and that I often control the conversations. I try and remind myself that of course, some people are grateful that someone else leads the conversations, as it takes the pressure off, but I hate to think people are just annoyed with me. 

Now for the bit of the story that explains the odd photo. Today I was with a family member who is the area manager of a chain of charity shops. We were grabbing a coffee, when were they recieved a phonecall saying the entire glass door to the charity shop had been shattered. We were only about 2 minutes away so went right over. What actually happened isn't what this story is about; how I responded to it is. I realised how naturally I take charge, which yesterday made me feel awkward and annoying, yet today it seemed so valuable. I asked for brooms, and for the staff to find me some gardening gloves (charity shops have the potential to have everything in them!). I managed the crowds, who seemed obssessed with just staring at the mountains of glass on the pavement and road, and the crowds who seemed to expect that they could still come in and shop!

I instantly felt proud of my ability to just take charge. I cleared all the glass (only suffering one cut!) and remained so solution-focused and calm. It wasn't my shop, yet I was so able to just step in and solve a stressful situation. I realised I was proud of how calm I remain in stressful situations, and how quickly I am able to think of ways to move forward.

A personality trait that had annoyed me yesterday, gave me pride today, and it made me realise that every strength can be a weakness, and every weakness a strength. If there is something about your nature that you don't like, perhaps you can focus on the times that it works as a positive instead?

Lanzarote Vineyard Tour with Eco Insider

lanzarote eco insider review

I've enjoyed a lot of wine in my time. Now that I'm in my 30s I've even developed a taste for wine that I prefer, and wine that isn't as nice. I'm not yet a red wine drinker, but I'm all about a cheeky white, rose or fizzy. Wine provides a different 'tipsy' or drunk feeling than other alcohols, and it suits a lazy pub catch up, or a moment to unwind after a hard day. But I don't know much about wine. I don't really understand what I like and why I like it. I am led by pretty labels at the supermarket shelf. 

wine tour lanzarote

So, while on holiday with a best mate who is currently studying for her wine exams, and visiting Lanzarote, a place that makes a lot of wine, I was more than happy to be offered the chance to review a vineyard tour with Eco Insider Tours Lanzarote.

The day started with Jose collecting us from our hotel, which takes all the stress out of an excursion doesn't it? Not having to get yourself somewhere for an exact start time, in a place you don't know. We made our way to collect a few more guests from other hotels, and then headed to our first vineyard. 

vineyard tour lanzarote

La Geria was our first stop, and we met our tour guide Ed, who helped give us some basic knowledge about the industry's history. The vineyards here don't look like other vineyards I've seen, for example the winery in Menorca had the traditional vines, the plants are grown in large crater-like holes in the ground, surrounded by little walls, to protect them for the harsh winds. It created a landscape that feels pretty moon-like!

We tasted 3 wines here, a white, a rose and a dessert/sweet wine, and there was definitely no hard sell to buy anything. In fact someone on our tour had been interested in purchasing the rose, but was told that there wasn't even any available to buy - I believe it was online sales only. So you don't need to worry about any awkward pressures to order a ton of wine to ship home! They do offer that service though, which could be fun if you found something you were keen on.

eco insider tour review

Our second vineyward was the oldest winery in Lanazarote, El Grifio, which amusingly for me has a logo that seems like a cute Welsh dragon (it is of course a griffin). We had a tour of the museum, and again had 3 wines to sample, a white, a sparkling and a red. Lanzarote isn't famed for it's reds, so don't come expecting to try a lot, they're all about their white, sweet and sparkling, which is still plenty to get your taste buds around. Ed helped us understand how the process, why wines taste how they do, and his passion for enjoying a cheeky glass was clear to see. It's always great to learn from someone passionate about their interests. 

The third vineyward was the complete opposite to the first two, it was a new winery with very modern branding, and we had very new wines to taste. So new in fact, one of them had been bottled 2 weeks ago. It tasted so different to other others we'd tried! Here we had a white, a rose and a dessert/sweet wine to sample. It was so interesting to hear how our tastes varied around the table!  I definitely wasn't keen, but it was fascinating to taste!

Julio our driver was so great at using the drives between vineyards to give us extra information and understanding about the area, and he was so enthusiastic and helpful. We really enjoyed hearing from him.

lanzarote wine tour review

The tour ended with lunch, at a local restaurant, with the wine still flowing! They were very accomodating of my vegetarianism (I'd advised them ahead of time), and even though I was wine-d out by then, the group were still enjoying topping up their glasses! 

Given I'm not really a wine buff, I really enjoyed being able to experience some types of wines I'd never had before. I felt the knowledge was detailed enough without being overwhelming and boring, and I definitely came away understanding the process of wine making. The wine industry is really important to Lanzarote, even though they don't seem to be that big on importing it to the UK. They say they're more than happy to keep it for themselves! 

I got thrown out as a guest of a live BBC radio show

I've taken a few days to reflect on what happened earlier this week, to make sure I was clear what I wanted to share, and while my title may be a tad click-baity, it is basically what happened.

On Tuesday I received a phonecall, from BBC Radio 5, wondering if I would speak on the radio the next day, sharing my (positive) thoughts on selfies. They said that they had an author who had just published a book about them, and they wanted to have a discussion about the current obsession we have with taking self portraits (usually on our phones). 

A post shared by ReeRee Rockette (@rockalily) on

Now, I'm no stranger to a selfie. I don't facetune, but like a slight contrast and light adjustment, and I know which angles I prefer in my face. I share selfies when I feel kickarse, when I'm at the gym, when I'm about to go on a date, or just when I fancy saying hello to the world. So I felt I could add a viewpoint to oppose the often negative slant that the media like to give selfie taking.

Don't get me wrong, I was nervous, but I'm a fan of doing things that scare you, so I agreed to it, took down the address and carried on with my day. Wednesday arrives, and I'm on the tube headed to Westminster, to the studio.

reeree selfies bbc

I got shown to the studio, and had to just sit and wait. When you're nervous about something, waiting is the worst isn't it!? After about 30 mins, the producer took me to the studio, where the presenter was talking live, and whispered that I should sit at the first mike, with the black headphones. I sit down, get my notes ready, and get my headphones on. It's now or never.

I quickly notice something is up. The man who had been shown in with me, whispered something about not knowing someone else would be in the room, and he walks out again, asking to speak to the producer. The producer quickly re-enters and whispers for me to step outside. I already have a hunch about what's happening.

britney gif

I enter the side of the studio behind the glass, and can see the man, take his seat, and the live interview starts. He's the author, and he clearly wasn't okay with me being included in the interview.

The producer has recovered my notes and my bag and hands them to me.

The poor guy is pretty mortified, and very embarrassed, and starts explaining that Will (the author) hadn't been told there would be anyone else in the interview with him. That it was their fault, but they simply hadn't really considered that he would need telling. The lovely presenter is mouthy sorry to me through the glass. I'm asked to stay and give my side an hour later, but by this time, I'm running late for my next appointment (first day at BSL college!) and I'm sort of over it now. They offered to get me a car, as an apology, which I of course accepted, as it was pouring down with rain at this point, and I was late for college. They asked again if I'd consider facetiming from college, but I said no thank you. 

As I hopped into my taxi, I tweeted about what had happened, and despite being asked to take it down, I decided to leave it up. 

The BBC team made it clear it was their error, and Will tweeted me swiftly an apology, which I RTed into my feed. 

However, I've since had time to ponder what happened, and I just wanted to get some things off my chest. 

Firstly, how rude. I simply cannot imagine behaving in the same way. I can't fathom feeling so cocksure that I'd walk out of a live interview that is due to start in 1 minute and demand another guest be removed. I obviously don't know what was said, perhaps he just refused to come out, and the they offered to remove me? Either way, I honestly can't imagine ever behaving that way. 

Secondly, doing some work promo on a topic that you've researched enough to write a huge book about, and yet feeling unprepared to have a 10 minute discussion about it seems equally as unfathomable. What did he imagine I'd say? Am I too intimidating looking? Too stupid looking? It's the BBC....you don't just get a 5 minute advert for your book....or do you? That's another discussion I guess ;-)

Thirdly, and the point that has been simmering and making me more angry as the days go by....

Why does he get to call the shots? If he was unhappy with the set-up, why wasn't his spot thrown out, and I kept in? The BBC doesn't owe anyone an advertising spot for a book. You can't buy air time. Why in that split moment, was he able to get me removed? We could have discussed his book release without him, or even just discussed seflies without a mention of the book. So why did he get to out rank me? 

Maybe it was because he demanded it, and a rash (poor) decision was made in a split moment. Maybe it's because he's a man, and men generally get to pull rank over women? I honestly don't know. As I said, I don't know what what was said, but why was his guest spot deemed more valuable than mine? The BBC doesn't owe him a spot. I was given so little thought, which seems ironic given the book is about narcissism ;-)

Anyway, I'm just sharing what happened to me, which is basically what my writing career (smaller than Will's but still valid) has been based on. For years and years I've shared my face and my thoughts with the internet (and print!)  so apologies to the BBC for continuing to do so. I'm not so sorry to Will though as I don't think he gave me much thought either.

 

Painting a toilet cistern (ways to improve your small rented flat)

painting a toilet cistern

I've written before about the challenges that can come with renting, but as a long term 'older' renter I try and find all the ways I can to make my flat feel more like mine, like home. Recently I was asking twitter about painting my cistern, and the answers seemed to be spary paint. I went to the paint store, but the spray paint colour options were limited. The woman who worked there suggested just using an acrylic paint, which meant I had every colour option going!

These cheap plastic toilet cisterns are common when you rent, and they never look clean as they seem to always turn this gross tobacco yellow. I picked a diamond eggshell from Dulux, in a shade called Jungle Fever 3, hoping to recreate a retro avocado green vintage feel. I focused on thin coats, and I applied two of these, a couple of hours apart.

avocardo green painted bathroom

I then got paint-happy and painted my white under-sink cupboard, and the bin (which used to be a bright blue). I also painted my soap dispenser and the back of the bathroom door. The room is too small to really get any full pictures, but once the door is finished I may well add a few more!