Professional Social Networking

 

I’ve been doing a bit of networking of late.  It’s reputed to be one of the most effective ways to grow your business.  In fact, according to write Adam Small, it is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organisation. It’s also quite a sociable thing to do, so what’s not to like?

I don’t remember how I first came across Dean Cassidy, director of Professional Social Networking (is not remembering a social networking gaff, I wonder?  I don’t think we met face to face.  I don’t think he knows how we first came in contact either so maybe we’ll just keep quiet about that and move on.)

I received an email from him recently, informing me that he would be inviting people to an event, and then, by chance, met him at another networking event.  I liked him and his enthusiasm.  So when I got the invitation to his inaugural networking event at the Stirling Bar at the Gherkin, I was in.

There are several networking organisation’s around, from chambers of commerce (which, to be honest) vary in their effectiveness from area to area, to dedicated networking organisation’s.  When you are starting a business, it’s all a bit hit and miss.  Or at least, that’s the way it has been for me.  You don’t know where to go or how to build your business, which networking groups to join or not.  The one I liked the look of, from a membership point of view, was 4Networking – you pay a membership fee but there is no compulsion to attend every week as there is with some.  It was at one of these lunchtime meetings that I met Dean face-to-face.

I like Dean.  He’s young and enthusiastic.  He’s worked for another networking organisation but his is different.  He doesn’t charge an annual membership fee, but he does charge more for an entrance fee.  It’s around £37 a throw.  Some people said to me that they thought it was quite expensive – I did a quick tally up in my head – actually, it’s not.  When you work out the annual fee that you pay to other organisations, and the fee for breakfast/lunch, Dean’s events are on a par or a bit cheaper.  Plus we got wine, yay!  (That actually didn’t work out well for me, I found a soul mate, or maybe I should say a drinking mate, and we ended up getting ever so slightly Brahms and Liszt, but that’s another story.)

There were about 16 of us at this event, which is a good size.  If there are too many people, it can get unwieldy.  I was lucky enough to see a couple of people I already knew, and met some nice new people.  There were people from a wide range of employments there: a jeweller (who is about to become my new BFF, her jewellery is stunning), a tax accountant, an osteopath, someone from IT, graphic designers, to name just a few.  Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and, I guess because we are all in a similar position, we are all prepared to try to help each other out.

Dean has big ideas – and good on him – he wants to be countrywide within two years.  I think that is entirely possible.  That works for people like me, too, because, if we happen to be working somewhere else, and the timing is right, it gives us a chance to go to a networking meeting elsewhere and meet different people.  (4Networking does that too.)

So what next?  Dean has another lunch coming up in a couple of weeks, which I won’t be able to attend, so I’d best be ready for the November one, when the tickets are sold, they are sold.

If you want to find out more about Dean’s company, check out his website:

www.prosocialnetworking.co.uk

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

The Day I Didn’t Go to Southend

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I had intended to go to Southend at the weekend, but for some reason I didn’t.  I fancied a walk along the front, to take in the sea air.  I checked the train times and fares.  Plenty of trains and the fare was not expensive. I was ready to rock and roll.  Except that I just couldn’t organise myself to go.  I had work to do and that took priority.  I’m not sure now when I will get the chance to go, so I read up on the town anyway.

Southend or Sarfend as it’s known in Estuary English (there is even a website of that name) is about 40 miles east of London.  Its proper name is Southend on Sea, but even the railway stations just refer to Southend.

Southend started life as the southern end (south end) of a village called Prittlewell, on the land owned by Prittlewell Priory.  Prittlewell Priory was not in the same league as Barking Abbey, it was home to only 18 monks.  Some of the priory building did survive Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, although not much of the original building remains due to the various subsequent rebuilding projects.

No visit to Southend would be complete without a visit to the pier.  It was built in 1830, when Southend was growing in popularity as a seaside resort.  The Southend coastline is made up of mudflats, which means that the sea is never very deep, and at low tide, it is about a mile from the beach.  This all meant that, unlike many other coastal towns, pleasure boats were unable to stop near to the beach, so pressure was put on the local authorities to build a pier, and a long one at that.

Southend Pier
Southend Pier

The first pier was opened in June 1830 but was still too short.  By 1833 the pier had been extended to three times its length, and by 1834 it was 7,000 feet long.   The railway hit Southend by the mid 1800s, bringing more visitors from London, which put a lot of pressure on the wooden pier.  By 1887, it was decided to replace the wooden pier with an iron pier, and although it wasn’t completed until 1889, it was opened to the public by summer 1887.

During World War II, the pier was taken over by the Royal Navy, closed to the public in September 1939 and was renamed HMS Leigh, with the nearby town of Westcliff being imaginatively named HMS Westcliff.  HMS Leigh served the dual role of being the Naval Control for the Thames Estuary and was also a mustering point for convoys.

The pier re-opened to the public in 1945, and very successfully, until a fire in 1959 destroyed the pavilion at the shore end of the pier.  The pavilion was replaced by a bowling alley in 1962 but Southend had missed the boat – the Brits had discovered cheap package holidays abroad and visitors to the pier declined.  The pier started to fall in to decline.  In 1980, the council announced that the pier was to close, which caused protests.  Clearly the pier has remained open and the pier has been restored as a visitor’s attraction, with a more recent Pier Pavilion for theatre and art exhibitions.

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The beaches at Southend are mostly sandy, great for building sandcastles, and there are several to choose from.  There are also a number of parks in the area, great for walking the dog, since they aren’t allowed on the beaches in the summer months.

Worth a visit is the Belton Hills Nature Reserve, or if the weather is not great, there are the Southend Pier Museums and Southend Central Museum and Planetarium.  There is the famous Cliff Lift at Western Esplanade, a funicular railway, and the Kursaal, which, as well as being a Grade II listed building which was an amusement park, is now a bowling alley and casino.

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© Susan Shirley

Bacon

I love bacon.  I love a bacon sandwich.  Nowadays, usually a toasted bacon sandwich.  I happened to catch a snippet of a TV programme about Wiltshire cure bacon…  Mmm, thought I.  Let’s investigate this further.

Bacon, as you probably know, is pork meat.  The process starts by curing – usually with large quantities of salt, which dries the meat, or with brine (generally known as Wiltshire cure).  The first bacon produced is known as green bacon (I don’t think I’ve seen this cut for a while, but I remember my Mum buying it when I was a child – green back bacon) otherwise known as fresh bacon.  Bacon is then usually dried for several more weeks, or boiled or smoked.  If it’s boiled, it’s ready to eat; otherwise it usually needs cooking first.

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Wiltshire cure bacon originated in the 18th century, apparently it has a milder flavour than traditional bacon, which was more popular at the time.  It means soaking the meat for four or five days, and needs less salt than the traditional method.

Boiled bacon (or bacon ready for boiling) is usually bought by the joint.  Bacon for cooking comes in rashers.  It’s also incredibly useful for laying over chicken to be roasted or to make “pigs in blankets” – sausages rolled in bacon rashers.

Pigs in blankets
Pigs in blankets

Bacon is distinguished from ham by differences in the curing process, and ham is traditionally made only from the hind legs of the animal.

Cuts of bacon vary around the world, but here in the UK, we commonly eat the following:

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Streaky bacon (also sometimes called side bacon) – this comes from the belly of the pig, and tends to be alternating layers of fat and lean.  (It’s the most common bacon in the US.). It’s ok if very well cooked.

Back bacon is from the loin in the middle of the back.  It’s very lean, with a layer of fat around the side.

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Cottage bacon is usually a thinly sliced, oval shaped cut from the shoulder.

Jowl bacon is smoked and cured meat from the cheeks, known as guanciale in Italy.  I don’t believe I have ever seen this.

Slab bacon (and again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this) comes from the side of the pig and is usually not sliced into rashers.  It tends to be quite fatty and is the same time of cut as salt pork but differs in that the latter is not cured.

My favourite bacon is probably smoked back bacon, but I’ll eat any of it, as long as it’s well grilled…  Got to go, it’s just about ready to eat.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016