Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s a hard life!

As a country lass, I occasionally need a fix of green and fresh air to keep me going, oh and a glass of Pimms never goes amiss!

Pimms, mmm

A few weeks ago on a slightly inebriated night out my friend invited me to stay with her and her family in the Cotstwold for the weekend. So last Friday we went off to the country for a weekend of Pimms, animals, sunbathing and green.

William

After work, armed with wine and sandwiches we boarded the train in Paddington and sped off to the green country for the weekend, where on arrival we were greeted by a flurry of fur and furiously wagging tails.

Poppy

Friday was an early night and on Saturday morning I was woken by chirping birds, sunshine streaming into my room and an excited dog. It was the perfect weekend to be in the country, not a cloud in the sky and beautifully warm; proper sunbathing weather. After a trip to Waitrose where we picked up ingredients for a BBQ – I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate so much meat – we did what we’d been planning all morning; sunbathed in the garden.

First BBQ of the summer

A few rather strong Pimms later, I proceeded to make dessert. An amazing looking Heston Blumental recipe, Diamond Jubilee strawberry crumble crunch, or as we dubbed it, a somewhat healthy Eton Mess. First I made a crumble with ground almonds to go on top which was baked in the Aga until golden brown. Next I whipped up a strawberry compote with vodka, elderflower cordial and rosewater to flavour, and finally a yoghurt and

My somewhat healthy Eton Mess style pudding

cream mix. Once everthing was cooled I layered the ingredients in a glass bowl; first the strawberry compote, followed by the yoghurt and cream, and to finish off I sprinkled the crumble and meringue pieces on top. It was the perfect – albeit filling – dessert and tasted seriously good after the delicious barbecued meat, bread and summer salad, which was nicely washed down with a glass – or two – of Prosecco.

Sunday afternoon, after a roast dinner – controversially my second ever roast dinner – sufficiently stuffed and sunburnt we all too quickly found ourselves on the train heading back to London.

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What do you actually do?

‘’What do you actually do?” is a question I am still often asked, when I tell people that I work in PR. Many people, like my mum for a long time, think I work in advertising or marketing, sometimes even journalism, but people rarely know what I really do. This has resulted in a pretty perfected pitch on what PR is, which I have refined quite exceptionally, or at least I like to think so. 

What I really do, or at least what everyone else thinks I do!

This general lack of understanding is I believe, due to the fact that the lines and boundaries between PR, advertising and marketing are becoming increasingly blurred. If, after reviewing the above image (which is scarily accurate), you are still baffled, well the following may or may not be particularly enlightening.  

The PR industry is ever evolving and as much as we might try to resist the changes, particularly when it comes to the evolving media landscape, the ever increasing importance of social media and the online world. These factors have become an essential part of PR. An example of this is how Twitter, a somewhat self indulgent outlet for many, and one which I personally took a while to make friends with, has evolved whether we like it or not, into one of the major forces driving the global news agenda.

The main media contacts for PRs are undoubtedly still the journalists at all the major news outlets. But increasingly PRs have to engage with bloggers, tweeters and the general public. The mainstream media is changing so fast and new outlets are cropping up so quickly that the PR professional needs to possess an increased level of flexibility and forward thinking. And with the demise of the News of the World and the ongoing Leveson Inquiry, journalism is becoming increasingly volatile.

There are many factors which have affected the PR industry such as the move of many publications from print to online. The global economic crisis, as challenging as it has been for many, has opened up an increasing demand for PR, despite the fact that many companies tend to cut their PR budget, as it is seen as a ‘luxury’ rather than a necessity. Already as it is, journalists often rely on the news provided by PRs for their bread and butter, but with an increase in journalist redundancies and less journalists to send out to find news stories, they are turning more and more to PRs for quick and easy stories to fill the pages of both print and online publications. Many of those who leave the media are turning to what most journalists see as ‘the dark side,’ more commonly known as PR.

The PR industry is rapidly growing, making the landscape increasingly competitive. Maybe in order to continue to evolve, PR needs to one day combine forces with marketing and advertising, offering clients a range of capabilities and an eclectic service. If PR does go this way, well our explanation as to what PR is and what we actually do will be made significantly easier!

With a few days off work between jobs, as you can see I’ve had plenty of time on my hands to muse over where PR may or may not be going. 


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To be, or not to be …

‘To be, or not to be-that is the question.’ I remember reciting Hamlet’s soliloquy over and over and driving my poor mum and sister mad when I was at school. Since then I have seen numerous  Shakespeare productions in various theatres and languages including a production of Hamlet in Russian with English surtitles, which was brilliant and a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in Dutch which involved a lot of rapping.

William Shakespeare

Now every time I go to see my mum we try and squeeze a theatre trip into the visit. So being a pretty big theatre fan I gladly offered to help my friend out at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloan Square yesterday afternoon.

It was warm and sunny outside as I walked through the stage door of the theatre, where I was greeted with a “welcome to the madhouse” by my friend, who’d been there since the morning.

Royal Court Theatre

I’d never been to the Royal Court before and was quite taken by the theatre’s intimate yet classic interior and the relaxed social bar area. We walked through the auditorium where one of the four schools selected to perform their Shakespeare production at the Gala evening organised by the Shakespeare Schools Festival (SSF), were busy rehearsing for the evening’s performance.

The SSF is a charity which runs the largest youth drama festival in the UK, enabling 100,000 young people and schools across the country to unlock their potential on the stage and provides an active and fun way of learning the classics.

Shakespeare’s productions are timeless and unlike what many young people may initially think, it can be lots of fun and performed and interpreted in many different ways.  This was clearly evident in yesterday’s performances where each school put their own spin on the classical plays of Macbeth, Twelfth Night and A Midsmmer Night’s Dream.

When I was at school my school didn’t put a lot of emphasis on theatre and acting, the only thing that was performed on a yearly basis was a musical put together by the fourth years (Year 10). I was studying abroad the year my class was involved in the production of Godspell so I didn’t get to partake. But after seeing enough of the productions over the years, I have to say the performances of the four schools and the soloist last night were really great.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by Riddlesdown Collegiate, Surrey

Having seen them behind the scenes rehearsing during the afternoon and putting them in place for the photographer to take pictures, the transformation when the lights were dimmed and the theatre filled up was amazing. The production of Twelfth Night by the St. John Fisher High School was brilliant. The costumes were great, and the hilarious performances of Malvolio and Maria and the drunken brawling of Sir Tobey and Sir Andrew had the audience laughing for much of the show.

I was seriously impressed by the professionalism, obvious enjoyment and real talent on stage from all four schools and the solo performance. Unfortunately for me, the local secondary school I attended was pretty mediocre to awful so sadly I never got the chance to try out my acting skills.

Maybe in another lifetime, but for now I’ll just have to continue enjoying theatre visits and watching others on stage!

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Afternoon of cooking, wining and dining

My stomach was rumbling as my friend and I stepped into L’atelier des Chefs this afternoon. I deliberately didn’t have any breakfast or lunch so I was rather famished by the time we arrived. The afternoon’s cooking class was a birthday present for my friend (which was at the end of March, it took a while to coordinate our diaries). I had sent her a shortlist of three possible classes for this afternoon and after a lot of dileberation and with consultation from her boyfriend, she came back with option number two, ‘Flavours of India.’

We were both quite intrigued by the menu, in particular the date and orange samosas sounded delicious. There were 15 of us in the class, so it was quite full. After donning our aprons and selecting our cooking stations, there were five of us per station, we all gathered around the chef to glean some cheffing tips before being let loose to start cooking.

Among other things I realised today how valuable a very sharp, good knife is when cooking, it does the job so much better than a blunt knife! We learnt the correct chopping and dicing techniques for various vegetables (shallots and onions are a bit tricky), along with the optimal way to cut certain herbs in order to get the most flavour from them. Who knew cooking was such an art, there is so much theory and logic behind everything. I have always considered myself a good cook, but after today, well I still have so much to learn!

Bengali style prawns with mango and mint chutney

So for starters we made Bengali style prawns with mango and mint chutney. This was mildly spiced and served with an authentic mango and mint chutney which was absolutely delicious. The sauce that the prawns were cooked in was really tasty as was the mango chutney, and so simple to make.  The one thing I did get slightly sqeamish about was beheading the prawns. Not to put anyone off, but the brains literally squirted out. I couldn’t stomach it I’m ashamed to say, so I left that part of the preparation to my fellow cooks. But the end result was really great.

Lamb and chickpea curry

After indulging in the starter at a large communal table with a much deserved glass of wine, we were back in the kitchen to finish off our main course which was a lamb and chickpea curry. This was served with rice and according to the chef was a healthy traditional curry, which was quite simple to make. I must say I had never cooked lamb before and to be honest I don’t think it’s something I’d cook at home as I’m not overly partial to lamb, but it was tasty and beautifully spicy. It was served with rice and we creatively decided to garnished it with coriander and mint for visual effect.

Date and orange sweet samosas

And now on to the best part, the dessert, which was a date and orange sweet samosas. The  crisp filo parcels were stuffed with a mouthwatering and extremely sweet date and orange filling served with a gorgeous citrus syrup which was made with whole cardamom seeds. I proved to have a good knack of rolling the filling in the filo pastry, I guess all the hours baking with my mum and sister when I was younger have finally paid off. It was really tasty, but after three I was stuffed. There were a few left over so both my friend and I brought a few home.

I must say both my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon of cooking and eating, it was a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, nice to meet new people and we came away with some new recipes and cooking techniques. I had to think of my mum and sister as I cooked, they would have loved it and the shop with all the gorgeous cooking equipment, well they would have been in heaven there.

All the food pictures down to the presentation of each dish are my work, plus that of my fellow cooks, and if I may say so myself they all look seriously good. After being photographed each dish was zealously devoured by yours truly.

A few hours later, still pleasantly full, I’m happily curled up on the sofa with a cuppa and a few samosas for a lazy evening of Saturday’s best TV ahead of me.

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