Rorschach pie

I made a steak and Guinness pie. I found the recipe in a random way. It was posted online by someone who found it on a piece of paper that someone else had left on a bus. She took the recipe home and decided to try it. It was the best pie she had ever eaten, so she shared the recipe on the website where I found it. The pie was indeed delicious. As well as steak, Guinness and vegetables, it included the magic ingredients Worcester sauce, tomato puree and sugar.

There was exactly the right amount of filling for my pie dish, and I had quite a lot of pastry left over, which gave me the opportunity to make some edible decorations. So I made two butterfly shapes and six leaf shapes. Then I remembered the little feet pastry cutters that I use to make cheesy biscuits to serve with drinks. So I cut out four little pastry feet and added them to the design. Now I had a garden with footprints.

After I took the pie out of the oven, I posted a photo of my handiwork on twitter where someone suggested my decorations depicted anatomical parts. Well, feet are anatomical parts and my butterflies are a representation of insect anatomy, albeit with quite a lot of artistic licence. Rorschach pie – each of us sees the world from our own unique perspective and interprets it differently from everyone else – and that is the magic.



London 2012: Has Danny Boyle fixed broken Britain?

A year ago, like many other bloggers, I wrote about the London riots as a symbol of broken Britain. It was a sad day for London. But we have recovered. In the midst of a double-dip recession, the British fighting spirit has been revived and we have seen multiple different versions of the famous Second World War motivational poster Keep Calm and Carry On.

And then there was Danny Boyle’s quirky Olympic opening ceremony. It included some relatively obscure cultural and historical references which may have been incomprehensible to many international viewers; but it also depicted our quintessentially British sense of humour: Mary Poppins, Mr Bean and even the Queen in a James Bond sketch – and our inventiveness embodied by Tim Berners-Lee. The programme embraced so much of what it means to be British – tackling some important issues head on with a fantastic celebration of our flawed, but altruistic National Health Service, and a serious tribute to the victims of 7/7 terrorist attacks featuring choreographer Akram Kahn and 50 dancers – which was, notably, censored by US broadcaster NBC.

Like so many British achievements, the Olympic opening ceremony was unique, eccentric and inspired. It was incredibly uplifting. And notwithstanding the doubters on Twitter and elsewhere – no, we didn’t mess it up. It was creative and different – and it worked.

It has taken the Diamond Jubilee, a historic Tour de France and the Olympics to make British people feel proud again – and to believe once more that what makes us different can also make us strong. Now all we need to do is get our economy back on its feet again.


Olympic pointe shoes belonging to Lydia Holt (Image: Sheri Leblanc on Pinterest )

On age: it is only a matter of time

This post is inspired by a conversation with a friend who teaches a ballet class for elderly people. It’s quite a big class with around 20 dancers aged between 75 and 90. They do a 1.5 hour class which includes a warm-up, a full barre, floor work, enchainment and even a grand allegro. It sounds quite demanding. She told me why she loves teaching children and elderly people to dance: although they are very different in terms of their ability and how they learn and work, they are more responsive than others to nurturing and encouragement. It’s not just about instruction; it’s about caring.

Our conversation turned to the relationship between children and old people; how children don’t view age in the same way as adults do. Children are generally more tolerant than adults in that they have fewer preconceptions and elderly people often have the time to listen to children, especially these days when parents are struggling with the ever-precarious work-life balance.  We are time poor and this can make us impatient. For children, old age is relative; they see all adults as old. For them, elderly people are older still. Old age is less frightening for children than it is for adults because it is a lifetime away.

These thoughts bring back two personal memories. One was from my schooldays, when one of our work experience options was to help out with social work locally. My assignment was to do some light shopping for an elderly lady and to keep her company for a few hours a week. She was a lovely lady in her eighties who had once been an actress and dancer, but was virtually immobile, confined to her upstairs flat and reliant on meals on wheels and visits from various carers and cleaners. She had no living relatives. We got on very well and I loved listening to stories from her youth. Some of them were quite risqué!  As I got to know her, I discovered she had not left her flat for months, apart from a visit to the doctor’s. I felt so sorry for her and I decided to find a way to take her out.

My friend’s boyfriend had a van, and they were both willing to help, so one afternoon in early summer when I was supposed to be keeping  her company, the three of us carried her down the stairs, put her in the van and took her out for tea in Richmond Park. She loved it and we all had a wonderful time. But when this adventure was discovered – I cannot remember how – I was sacked from my work experience post for irresponsibly removing the old lady from her flat.

With many years’ hindsight, I can understand the issues – what if there had been an accident or she had been taken ill? The social services would have been hard pressed to explain why one of their charges was running around London in a van with two 16-year-old girls (me and my friend) and a 20-year-old boy (her boyfriend). On the other hand, as a young girl, I didn’t see her in the same way as social services did. This is not a criticism of the social workers who no doubt had a tight schedule of multiple visits each day; it was a matter of time. In one afternoon a week for a couple of school terms, I spent long enough with her to see beyond her immediate situation and physical issues to discover a life scattered with glitter and glamour, sadness and loss.

Years later, my grandmother was in an elderly people’s home for the last couple of years of her life. It was a friendly place with caring staff and at Christmas they put on a party with some entertainment for the residents and their families. My son, who was about ten years old at the time, went along. As one of the few children there, he spent some considerable time talking to the residents. I asked him what they talked about. “Not much,” he said, “They kept asking me my name and where I went to school. Some of them asked me the same questions two or three times.” Did this bother him? “Oh no, they are very old. They have a lot to remember”. 

Every day we are making more memories and every day we are subtly changing. Here’s Noah Kalina’s memorable video to one of my all time favourite songs: Everyday, by Carly Commando


Justice Gap on the London Legal Walk

Here is the Justice Gap team before setting off on the London Legal Walk on Monday evening (the photo is from Gary’s photos on organiser Natalia Rymaszewska’s album). I chose this photo – there are a few – because it reflects the fun atmostphere.  


Another blogger wrote that lawyers and others walking for a good cause was not exactly a physical challenge. This is true – particularly as it was a beautiful sunny evening after weeks of rain – and there was a festival atmosphere, with people in all sorts of costumes, including policemen on stilts and these people dressed as trees (hedges?)


As someone else wrote, the scale of the event demonstrated the solidarity of support within the sector for an important cause – free legal advice. Over 6,000 lawyers and others turned up to walk 10k around London raising £525,000 for London’s free legal advice agencies.

I took this photo of the legal crowd on the Embankment – if you look closely, you can see some of the Justice Gap team!


It was a privilege to take part and to meet many outstanding members of the legal profession – including, of course, the Justice Gap team. Thanks are due to Amanda Bancroft and Kim Evans for organising the Justice Gap team. The post-walk drinks were sponsored by Allen & Overy.

 Jon Harman, also walking with the Justice Gap, made this video, which in just a few minutes, encapsulates the great atmosphere.

It may not have been an endurance test; and it was lovely to meet so many like-minded people – some of whom I had met virtually via twitter. But the fact that we had a fun time must not be allowed to detract from the success of the event and the importance of its cause. Thank you so much everyone who sponsored the London Legal Walk.

Flickr – Flicker: my photographs

The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled and rearranged and evaluated differently – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am not so sure about that, so I have created a Flickr account

This is not for storage. It is not an exhibition. It is a record, perhaps for posterity. Some random images of the places I have seen and a few observations in an attempt to address the efforts of certain individuals who, for reasons of their own, are attempting to portray me differently.

The photos are not in chronological order because I uploaded them all at once and haven’t worked out how to swap them around yet.



Social media: A CRM system from hell?

Twitter has been buzzing about the changes to Facebook and Google+ becoming available to everyone who wants it. It has been suggested that Twitter and LinkedIn become Facebook apps, so that we can bring together all our social media into a single communication channel with lots of different lists, the idea being to have all our contacts in one place. I am not sure about this. It seems to me that integrating social media would give every user their own personal client relationship management (CRM) system from hell.

Most of us compartmentalise our lives, at least to some extent. I use LinkedIn as a professional networking site. My connections list is not my contact book – it doesn’t even include all my clients – but it is a good way of keeping in touch with the many interesting people I encounter professionally.  I can see their profiles and they can see mine. It’s a good way of sharing my features and columns with an interested audience and finding out about important events in the industries I cover. Although some of my connections have become friends, I also remain LinkedIn with former clients and associates, even ones I am unlikely to work with again. Conversely, I am not LinkedIn with any of my personal friends where there is no professional connection.

I’m not a big user of Facebook – perhaps for generational reasons as it didn’t exist when I was at university (for either of my degrees) – and my friends include actual friends who prefer to get in touch via Facebook and some friends and contacts that live abroad. I post links to my writing and status updates. I like reading other people’s updates, especially when I haven’t seen them for a while.

Whereas only your chosen connections on LinkedIn and Facebook see your updates and your connections lists, Twitter opens up a  wider community. As a writer, it doesn’t make sense for me to protect my tweets, and I’m always looking to expand my readership, but this means that I cannot control or determine my audience – i.e. you don’t have to be following someone to read their tweets. Interaction on Twitter is different too – you build yourself a community of professional and personal interests.

Twitter is more and less personal than LinkedIn and Facebook. I have met only a tiny proportion of the people I interact with on Twitter, whereas I have met all my Facebook friends. News travels fastest on Twitter. I follow newspapers and websites for useful real-time updates. People on Twitter don’t just talk about work and share work-related links: they review and recommend books, music and restaurants – everywhere. They chat about movies, sci-fi, dance, fashion and even swap recipes. I have given and received the online equivalent of tea and sympathy and exchanged ‘virtual hugs’. And those online messages of support have meant a lot.

Professional discretion is a key consideration in the way we use social media. Several people I’ve encountered in the professional services sector have told me they avoid LinkedIn because they don’t want their competitors to see who their clients are, or their clients to see each other. It’s why some people also avoid Facebook. Others have separate business and personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. They want to differentiate between their professional and personal lives.

Do people really want to share the random updates they post to their friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter with their clients, employers and other professional connections? Do they want them to see their photos – and the ones they’ve been tagged in? I wouldn’t spam my LinkedIn connections with my tweets and status updates – and I don’t need to see theirs.

A compromise would be to decide which groups of people should have access to every update. Which means categorising your connections into lists – which you can do on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  And if you categorise your connections into lists of people with different levels of access to certain information, apart from potentially damaging the spontenaity of Twitter, you’ve just created a new task and the equivalent of a personal online CRM system owned by Facebook, which Facebook can then use for its own purposes. My connections are already categorised by whether I am connected to them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any combination.

In an article in The Observer today David Mitchell describes Facebook as a monopoly and highlights his concern at its use of advertising. Equally important is its use of data. If Facebook ends up including LinkedIn and Twitter, and continues to change its terms of use, it will have something close to a global personal data information monopoly – on the data that millions of people choose to share with each other. As someone wrote in response to Mitchell’s article, “Someday anonymity will be as precious as liberty”.


Tweetup, penfriends, postcards and bookmarks

Last night I attended my first ever Tweetup, very well organised by tweeting legals – thank you so much for an excellent evening! It was an interesting and fun experience to meet in real life some of the people I’ve been communicating with online for quite some time. I am accustomed to meeting people I have already interviewed on the phone or by email, as this is how I do most of my work, but this was different.

Walking into a room where at first sight almost everyone was a complete stranger – I went with someone and met by chance one other person I had met previously – I didn’t even know their names, to find that among these unfamiliar faces were people I have shared music with, chatted in 140 character bursts late at night, received ‘virtual hugs’ at times of stress and offered and accepted the online equivalent of tea and sympathy. At first, I pondered on this strange experience of meeting and connecting with people on Twitter and then meeting them in person as an extension of social networking, a different dynamic from  meeting people and then connecting with them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Then I realised this was nothing new – it was more like meeting a series of penfriends for the first time. Who remembers penfriends – and the outpourings of teenage angst in letters and postcards?

And postcards – who sends postcard now? I’m not sure whether FourSquare or Twitter really capture the essence of a postcard, mostly because they are immediate. Photos posted on Facebook are your own images, instantly uploaded – possibly having first been manipulated by sophisticated digital technology. A postcard captures something of the essence the place you are visiting – how it sees itself, if you like – and your choice of postcard reflects how you see the place and who you are writing to – and of course whether there’s a reasonable selection of postcards! I always took quite a lot of time choosing and writing postcards. Memories of sitting in a foreign cafe writing some reflections – different ones depending on the purpose of my journey, and whether I was writing to family or friends. They always arrived long after you got back and they made great bookmarks – for books and life. Faded postcards fall out of books; mementos of people and places. When I visited Cuba earlier this year, which was like turning the clock back about 50 years, I sent just a few lovely old-fashioned postcards – they took eight weeks to reach the UK! And I bought some bookmarks.

%d bloggers like this: