Why the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a Must

Friday, August 14th, 2015

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, taking place every August for three weeks and is the highlight of many people’s calendar. The sheer variety of entertainment means that people are drawn from all over the world. The Fringe story dates back to 1947, when eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the newly formed Edinburgh International Festival, which was created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life after the Second World War. Although they weren’t part of the official programme they just went ahead and staged their shows on the ‘Fringe of the Festival’. This set a trend and more and more performers followed their example so that in 1958 the Festival Fringe Society was formed.

The Fringe provides support, advice and encouragement to artists and producers who come to the Fringe each year. In 2014 there were 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues so it is impossible to see everything – I last went two years ago and managed to see seventeen performances in two and a half days! Ideally you need to give yourself much more time, but I was on a tight schedule as usual. If you can stay as near the centre of the city as possible it makes life easier because you can walk from venue to venue. The locations range from theatres, to cellars, to rooms in pubs or specially constructed marquees.

My favourite venue was the fabulous Spiegeltent. This Famous mirrored tent is an iconic mainstay of The Edinburgh Festival and a star in its own right since Marlene Dietrich sang Falling in Love Again on the stage in the 1930’s. Since then the magic mirrors have reflected thousands of artists, audiences and exotic gatherings. I saw a mind-blowing cabaret-cum-circus act one night and the amazing Wah Wah Sisters the next. Quite a contrast as theses two American ‘sisters’ sang and played guitars for most of the performance ‘as naked as the day they were born’!

The fabulous Speigeltent venue

The fabulous Speigeltent venue

If you only go once in your life, don’t miss a chance to visit The Fringe. There really is something for everyone from authors, singers, bands, mime artists and raconteurs to name but a few. William and I are hoping take our Etiquette Show there one day – that would be a dream come true for me!

The Speigeltent is always one of the most popular venues

The Speigeltent is always one of the most popular venues

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All You Need to know for The Polo Season

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

The Game

Polo is divided into chukkas, either four, six or eight. Each chukka involves seven minutes of play, after which a bell is rung and play continues for either another 30 seconds or until the ball goes out of play.  A three minute break is given between each chukka and a five minute break at half time and the ends are changed after each goal is scored.

Divot etiquette is important; divots are the clods of earth that the horses’ hooves throw up, and everyone is expected to go and ‘tread in’ between matches to make the ground as smooth as possible. Sensible shoes are useful here!

Treading-in the Divots gives spectators a chance to stretch their legs and is part of the enjoyment of the day

Treading-in the Divots gives spectators a chance to stretch their legs and is part of the enjoyment of the day

A Snippet of History

Polo, or “hockey on horseback” as it was referred to in Britain at first, is probably the oldest team sport. Although the exact roots of the game are not known, it is thought it was first played by nomadic warriors over two thousand years ago, though the first recorded tournament was in 600 B.C. between the Turkomans and the Persians.

In Persia the game was played by Royalty and polo has been linked to the middle and upper classes in Britain, mainly due to the fact it was played by members of the armed forces who could afford the number of ponies need to play the game.

What to Wear

Cartier International Day at the end of July is a major fixture in the sporting calendar for the season, when everyone dresses up. However, it is not like Royal Ascot so hats are not de rigour, but a Panama or summer hat always looks very chic.

The dress code for polo today is smart casual, which means collared shirts with trousers, chinos or smart jeans for gentlemen, and dresses, skirts, trousers, smart shorts to the knee or smart jeans for ladies. Sandals are only permitted for ladies. For the Royal Box, shirts and ties, lounge suits, jackets or blazers with trousers or chinos are required for gentlemen, and dresses, skirts or tailored trousers for ladies. There is no covered seating at most events so do remember what the English weather can be like!

A young couple appropriately dressed for Cartier Polo

A young couple appropriately dressed for Cartier Polo

Polo and The Royal Family

Polo first became known in the west via British tea-planters.  In 1869, the first game in Britain was organised on Hounslow Heath by officers stationed at Aldershot, one of whom had read about the game in a magazine. The Duke of Edinburgh started following polo in the 1950s, then Prince Charles showed an interest and now Princes William and Harry are regular team players.  When meeting members of the Royal Family then the usual rules apply. Don’t speak unless spoken to, and it is courteous for British citizens to curtsey or bow

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge dressed perfectly for a Polo match

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge dressed perfectly for a Polo match

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How to Plan for Public Speaking

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

One of the things we all worry about when getting up to speak is that we will forget everything we ever knew, including our own names!

With careful preparation, however, you will not only remember everything you want to say, but also present to your audience all the relevant information in a logical, easily understood and entertaining way.

There's really nothing to fear!

There’s really nothing to fear!

These are the questions you should ask before you agree to speak to anyone anywhere:

  • Why? You will usually be asked to speak either because you are a good raconteur or because you are expert in a certain field.
  • What? You need to know what they want you to talk about and you are the right person to give the presentation. If the occasion is social, the subject might be left up to you. If the talk is work-related, the organiser will probably decide the subject, especially if it is given as part of a bigger event, such as a conference. If this is the case, you need to know what part it will have in the whole event and whether there will be other speakers.
  • Who? You need to know whom you are talking to. Every speech, talk or presentation should be written with the audience in mind. What do your listeners want to know or need to hear? What do they know already?
  • How many? What size is the audience and what age are they? What are their job categories or positions? Is it a mixed audience in terms of gender and culture, and if so, in what proportions.
  • Where? The venue is important. Where is it and how long will it take to get there? How big is the room? If it is a large room with no microphone, is there a need for a sound system, and who will arrange this? If you are taking a laptop, is there a projector? Is there a flip chart or a lectern?
  • How long? Do not be cajoled into speaking for any longer than your subject requires. It is always better to speak for a shorter time than to overrun.

 

A microphone and lectern need not faze you

A microphone and lectern need not faze you

Give yourself plenty of time. Preparing any sort of presentation takes hours, not minutes. You do not want to be one of those of whom it is said:

‘Before they get up they do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking they do not know what they are saying; and when they sit down they do not know what they have said!’

 

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Jottings from Africa

Friday, February 15th, 2013

I have just arrived in Nairobi to work for a couple of weeks with LeaderGen.

Teaching in NairobiCEO Marilyn Comrie OBE and I travelled out last night; we had to change planes at Doha as there is no direct flight from Manchester. Unfortunately the Manchester plane was a bit late taking off, so although WE managed to change planes in Doha our cases didn’t! Travelling to Africa can sometimes be a bit problematic – this is Marilyn’s third experience of losing her luggage, I have only had it happen twice so far, but that experience should have told me to pack a change of clothes in my hand luggage.

When training abroad there is always lots to take with you; I need a number of smart outfits to work in as well as casual clothes (especially if I am lucky enough to go on a short safari, which I am hoping to this trip) and books and manuals etc for courses, so I decided to take those with me and trust my clothes to luck – bad decision! We had been told to expect our cases this afternoon as there was another Qatar Airways flight expected around lunchtime, but it is now 5.30 and still no sign……one thing I have learned though, always travel in smart clothes. You get treated with more respect and you can at least go to meetings or deliver training looking reasonably smart until, hopefully, your baggage arrives!

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PLAN for an effortless Christmas

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

P – PRESENTS: plan ahead so that you are not trying to think of things at the last minute.  Try to start wrapping  as soon as you get them so that you are not up until 3am on Christmas morning STILL surrounded by paper and gift tags!  Decide on a budget, especially with family and friends – you don’t want to be paying for Christmas all year.  It really should be the thought that counts, and the gifts must be appropriate.  If you know some family members or friends cannot afford to spend a lot on presents, don’t give them extremely expensive gifts that will make them feel uncomfortable or patronised.  Always write thank you letters, even if the gift is something you will never use!  It is a good idea to make a list as children open their presents so that you know who gave what.  The day after Boxing Day is often quiet, and the offer of treats can be a good incentive to make writing Thank You letters fun.

L- don’t LEAVE things until the last minute – especially Christmas cards.  If you are going to send them, make a list and try and send them early in December, which gives you plenty of time if you suddenly find you have forgotten someone.  Many charities rely on Xmas cards as a substantial part of their annual revenue,  and although many e-cards contain a donation to charity they are just not the same!  There is nothing nicer than brightening  up the house with colourful cards, but as postage is expensive, it might be an idea to send them only to those you don’t see very often.  I tend to hand deliver cards to local friends and only post the ones who live a distance away.  If Christmas is at your house, order the wine, the tree and the turkey (or whatever your Christmas fare) in good time.  Also make sure you have enough oil and logs so that if the weather turns suddenly cold outside – you will be warm inside!

A – have an ACTION plan.  It is much easier to spread the load.  If you celebrate a big family Christmas, get others to contribute, both to the work and to the expense.  For instance, someone can bring the wine, another could bring the Christmas puds, someone else can provide cheese, crackers etc.  Also, it is important to make sure that you get help to clear things away.  In Britain we tend to finish the day by watching what are (hopefully) good programmes on TV, so make sure the younger members of the household get into the routine of clearing the table, putting stuff into the dishwasher and generally helping to put the house back the way it was.

N – NEVER let disagreements get in the way of a lovely day, Christmas  should be a time for mending fences and friendship.  If you have had  ‘words’ with family or friends, sending them a card can be a way of getting back in touch, and if you have a lonely old auntie or neighbours who are going to spend Christmas on their own, why not ask them to join you – even if it just for a drink before lunch?

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