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Ian Hawkins

Speaker, author, conference moderator & coach

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This Detail Matters

You learn a lot as you go along in this professional writing business. Most of the time the learning is instinctual, and occasionally you’re asked to codify it for an article or an audience. It’s an uncomfortable process, and then you find that whatever you’ve picked up in the writing school of hard clichés was said years ago by Stephen King.

Here is one thing that I’ve never heard before, and like the irritating click baiter I long to be, I’m going to put it after the jump. Continue reading “This Detail Matters”

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Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ****

There are many things in the world today that can get one’s ire, and so I am always delighted that I stop at the apostrophised plurals and malapropisms rather than getting into a proper lather about, say, the US election. Continue reading “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ****”

Slacktivism

I so wanted Bernie but settled for Clinton

And now I am landed with Trump.

I made my own meme

I retweeted HuffPo

I liked your status and forwarded fact checks,

Called up the podcasters

Clicked on the link

And forwarded

Liked

Retweeted

And joked

And told everyone that it

Just wasn’t possible

And Clinton would be

The first woman president.

So I didn’t

Actually

Vote.

The 7 Stages of TwitterStorms

Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s chip wrappers. Careers have often been defined by the press they generate – from John Profumo to John ’two jags’ Prescott – and in a world of 24/7 social media, bad press is there for the taking. Continue reading “The 7 Stages of TwitterStorms”

Russell Brand & Me

As I cycled westwards along Piccadilly last week, I spotted Russell Brand walking eastwards, and gave him the little nod that we celebrities give one another. Continue reading “Russell Brand & Me”

Miami to JFK

You can’t go to South beach without having breakfast at News. Well, of course you can, it’s just that I fall whichever way the wind blows,

Continue reading “Miami to JFK”

Key West to Miami

The morning was spent packing up my things before Phyllis arrived to take me down to the USA’s southernmost Toastmasters meeting to dry run my contest speech. I shall miss the Marquesa: it’s a few old houses turned in around a couple of pools, and the whole place has a lazy, laid-back attitude that just invites you to kick back and do very little. The madness of Duval Street is minutes away, but here is a quiet sanctuary, where there is no rush for the loungers, I am the youngest resident, and every plane that flies overhead reminds you that you aren’t leaving – yet.

But tonight I have an appointment in Miami, and so I put on the bulkiest clothes that wouldn’t fit in my bag and did my speech, which by the strict rules of Toastmasters involved a little cheating: contest speeches have to be 7min 30sec maximum. The speech I was doing was 8min minimum. I flung in a minute of saying how nice Key West was, and how lucky I felt to be there, flattery being the most pleasant form of filibustering.

A final oyster at the harbour, then off to the airport. Key West international was apparently the first international airport in the states, according to the taxi driver, though I find it hard to believe as we arrive at the toy-town check-in. Security make me take off my shoes but are dismissive of my belt.

The stewardess warns us that it is unlikely the seatbelt sign will be switched off during the eighteen minutes we are actually in the air, which I assume is a mis-hearing on my part until we land almost immediately afterwards at Miami International, and this time, it’s a convincing title.

Miami is a hard city to love at first sight. It’s big. It’s hot. And as I checked in, it felt noisy. The Marquesa wouldn’t dream of pumping 80s pop through speakers in Palm trees, but Loews on South Beach wouldn’t not.

Dinner is at Katsuya, a new Japanese restaurant at the SLS Hotel. Regular readers will know that my greed is not matched by my powers of description, but here I am going to completely fail you, reader, as I failed myself to have a reaction I trusted to what I ate. Keep in mind, this has recently been named one of the top 50 restaurants in the USA. All I could do as I laid my chopsticks aside at the end was say, ‘What the hell was that?’ It was nice – really nice – and I would eat there again in a heartbeat, but the experience left me confused. Profoundly confused. And I thought Pret sushi had trained me to appreciate Japanese cuisine.

I started with crispy Brussels sprouts with roasted almonds. Fine, we can all imagine that. At the end was a quartet of beef medallions topped with fois gras (I don’t want your approval, just your understanding). In the middle was an enigma, cloaked in a riddle wrapped in some sort of seaweed I think.

The waiters kept passing he table with trays of food, none of which looked like each other, what I got, or anything I’d ever had before. I has a sea urchin on a cucumber plinth and there was something as flat and as white as the plate it was served on and it was delicious but I couldn’t tell you what it was supposed to be.

I gave up looking for the men’s room (I asked for directions but the instructions given were complicated and began with leaving the restaurant. I stood by the pool in utter bewilder,net for a moment before returning to the table). I drank Italian rosé as it goes with everything, and as it went with the meal, I can only say that the food was indeed food and good food at that, but it was a bit like finding someone unexpectedly sexually attractive, or the early days of cinema: I don’t think the western vocabulary – or my corner of it at least – can quite capture the experience. The Japanese almost certainly have a word for it. I’m going to stick at ‘yum’.

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Key Lime Pisces

Yesterday’s Cuban sandwich was still good by the time I’d cycled down to the dock and found a bench looking over the boats. Pelicans perched on the rooftops and glowered at the fish and the people eating fish and the fish eating smaller fish, waiting for their opportunity.

Aware that I am departing this little corner of paradise tomorrow, I walked down Duval Street and allowed myself to be drawn into the key west Wine company. The temptation was to buy a couple of martini glasses – they had a couple of robust numbers with tiny fish cut into the glass. On every glass, one fish is swimming the wrong way. I decided against them because a) they wouldn’t last the journey and b) I’d drive myself crazy looking for the fish. So I opted for the easier option of a bottle of blueberry wine, surprisingly dry and even more surprisingly made of nothing but blueberries.

A bottle of wine in a shoulder bag is a heavy burden, and so I was forced to stop for a quick Margarita which arrived with the news that it was ‘buy one get one free,’ so if you’re pacing yourself, be aware of this possibility. Happily, I was able to take it in my stride, and returned to the Marquesa via the local supermarket for Cuban bread, roast beef, and shrimp salad for lunch.

Tomorrow I’m due to do a speech at the key west Toastmasters, and so a small gang of us went down to Solo, a bar near the harbour for yet more Margaritas before heading up to Pisces for dinner.

This is another restaurant that seems to have been carved out of someone’s house: there are more tables than first glance suggests, as they are all in different rooms. There are huge Warhol-style prints on the walls. I sat with Chairman Mao looking over my shoulder, and Mohammed Ali looking into my plate.

I kicked off with a salmon roulade and mozzarella roulade, and then launched into tuna with crab and lobster in the lightest and mildest and mangoiest curry sauce you can imagine and you almost certainly can’t so I think you should just quit reading this and go.

Another fabulous Riesling, and my work was done. The French couple at the next table made happy noises throughout their meal, while I took it slow and mused on the thought that I haven’t put a fork wrong all week.

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Lobster at Latitudes

Today, I caught the sun.

Continue reading “Lobster at Latitudes”

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