Sunday, 29 July 2012

My Great British Seaside Holiday with my fab mum

Waaayyyyy back in June (it feels so far away already!), my lovely mum and I took to the English Coast for a seaside holiday.

We had about 6 days away along the Kent coast, and of course, it being a British Seaside holiday, we had rain on all but one of the days.

My mum chose Herne Bay as our base and we stayed in a lovely 300 year old 4* B&B called The Priory. The free wifi was a bonus too! 

I was really happy to meet some fellow tweeters there! 

Here's a few of the things we got up to on our hols


Of sorts. And in the rain. My mum did really well and found such treasures as a rusty wheel, a leather bookmark, a lighter and a dog! :D


Of course we had to go to the famous Canterbury cathedral.

Canterbury Tales 

I really enjoyed this quaint attraction. We were led from one darkened room to the next with a new tale of deceit, love, jealousy.... The stories were fun and were told by rudimentary animatronics, some of which were quite grotesque (but in a funny way!). 


My Mum and Dad took me here for a holiday when I was about 5, and Mum wanted to go back again. Luckily we got a break in the rain! 

Re-visiting Margate with my Mum
The main attraction of the day was the Turner Contemporary who is playing host to Tracey Emin's exhibition She Lay Down Deep Beneath The Sea. The exhibition is on until 23rd September. 

A letter from Tracey in a shop window. She is inviting people to attend her exhibition

Rodin's The Kiss
I loved the TC! It's a beautiful bright white building with amazing view over looking the sea. 

I really recommend the Tracey Emin exhibition in which she explore the themes of love and romance in her honest and sometimes brutal way. 

A few Tracey Emin postcards
I was so inspired by Tracey's work that I went to the gift shop and bought a pencil, rubber and a little book. 

'I'm going to be an artist!', I declared. 'Mum, you can be the subject of my first piece of art!'

My mum looking across Margate harbour
I showed my Mum my wonderful work and she laughed and there ended my career as an artist. If I have learnt anything from the experience as An Artist it's that you have to develop a thick skin; not everyone will understand your art or your message, not even your mum. Everyone's a critic as they say! ;D


Possibly my favourite place that we visited (on the day it didn't rain). 

We visited the Charles Dickens Museum. If you are a Dickens fan then you have got to go here. It's based in a small house where Dickens stayed and is crammed with items belonging to Dickens; from furniture to prints and letters. 


This was the shortest time I've spent anywhere! We got off the bus, I took a photo of the harbour and we got on the next bus! It was the end of the day and we were ready to make the journey back. I'm sure Ramsgate is amazing! 

Dickens World

One day we headed to Chatham for Dickens World. The website made it look quite fun. But to be blunt, I think it's seen better days, but in some ways it was so bad, it was good. Well, not good exactly. Amusing is more like it, but not in the way they probably intended. 

I said at the time it was like a theme park that went wrong that you would see in The Simpsons.  

There was a play in which the costumed 'actors' mimed, MIMED, their way through a 10 minute version of Oliver Twist. Fagan had a big fake beard so he didn't even have to make the effort to move his lips. In the background of the set, a cleaning lady went round and emptied the bins. 

The 'characters' on the set would interact, but only if you made the effort and even then, their hearts weren't in it. Half of the Haunted House was broken. It felt like a nineteenth century ghost town - all the life had gone from it. Oh, I could go on. It was all round, just a very bad show. 

Talk about ending the holiday on a high note! lol

It was fab to spend quality time with my ace Mum. She's such a laugh. Thanks for an brilliant holiday Mum! Love you! 

If you want to catch all my tweets from my holiday, I've got them all Storified :) 

Say hello to me on twitter @karenstrunks and my Mum is @createdineire

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A story about my old dog Honey

Last night my old dog Honey came to visit me in my dreams.

I have no idea why she popped into my mind seemingly out of the blue. I hadn't been thinking of her. 

In my dream she came to see me where I am living now and we went out for a walk and I showed her around my neighbourhood.

It was so good to see her, even in my dream, and she was still as fun and energetic as I remember her, but she tire quicker and had to sit down and rest between spurts of energy.

Honey and I first met around 12 years ago when I was living in another part of Birmingham. I had a large house and already 4 cats. They were the result of doing voluntary work at the cattery at the RSPCA! 

I can't remember my exact thought process around deciding to get a dog. It wasn't long after I told the boyfriend I was living with to move out. With him gone, I had the place to myself. I could do what I wanted. I didn't have to consult or consider, it would be fun and I might even do more exercise with a dog to run after! I guess it went something like that. 

I had never owned a dog before, and I don't remember doing much research about owning one, but that didn't stop me and off I went to the city's dog home

I found a little male cross breed dog I liked. He was quite unremarkable looking really. A sandy colour with little legs that reminded me of sticks and made me laugh. He loved being picked up and I was all set to get him when the member of staff that was showing me around said 'oh, I've thought of another you might like! Come and meet her and then you can decide'. 

We went into a big hallway and out ran this springer spaniel and headed straight for the food area! She paid absolutely no heed to me, and had to be brought over to me and even then you could tell she was just thinking 'food!!'. The lady gave her some lunch and that seemed to satisfy the dog. I umm'd and aaah'd over which dog - how hard to chose!! 

Less than an hour later I had a springer spaniel. I bought a collar and lead, signed some paper work and paid £70. I named her Honey, and she happily led me out the front door of the dogs home. I then led her to the bus for the journey home. I called my mum, 'Guess what I've got?!'. 'Not another cat?!'. 'No, A DOG!!!'. 'Oh Karen!'. 

When Honey entered the house, the cats scattered every which way! They weren't expecting this intruder. And I wasn't prepared at all. I had no dog food, or dog bowls. What do dogs need? Hmm, now how do I co-ordinate going to the shops with the dog? Do I leave the dog at home? Do I take her with me? Do I tie her up outside the shop? How do I carry shopping AND hold the leash? Somehow I figured it all out and by dinner time Honey had a dog bowl and some food. 

Honey settled into her new home no problem. Eventually the cats re-emerged and even became friends with Honey and cuddled up to her to sleep. I got into a routine of walking her every morning and as soon as I got home from work. Luckily I there were some fields nearby and some huge ponds too. 

I didn't know much about Honey's background. She came from a dogs home in Wales before she arrived at the Birmingham Dogs Home, and I was told she was around 4 years old. She wasn't too keen on men unless they were friends of mine, which makes me wonder if she had a bad experience in her former life. 

Honey was a delight. She was naughty, had boundless energy, was a smart cookie and a quick learner except when it came to walking nicely on the lead. She dragged me everywhere. I tried and tried with her. I looked up every training method going to see if I could get her to walk nicely beside me. I remember one method said that as soon as you step outside the front door and the dog pulls on the lead, you turn around and head back into the house and that's the end of the walk. The poor thing didn't get a walk for about four days and I couldn't keep it up any longer and gave in and took her back to the big fields where I could let her off the lead and she could go mad running about. 

I could never, ever tire her out. If she was outside, she could keep going and going for hours! I would tire before she did. She loved the water. Give her a pond, river or lake and she would throw herself into it. One Christmas day there was snow on the ground we went for our morning walk. The big pond was frozen over. Did that stop Honey? She dived straight in and through the ice! I panicked. I lay on the snow covered ground by the side of the pond, grabbed her collar and somehow managed to pull her out. I took her straight back home and by the time we arrived a few minutes later she was like a snow ball; her wet fur attracting big clumps of snow. She was a right as rain. Nothing seemed to bother her. 

And so we continued for a few years, but as time went on I got unhappy with work and where I was living. It felt like I was existing, and getting by, but I wanted MORE than that for myself! I had to do something radical and overhaul my life. Big changes had to be made and one of those was to move home. I had my heart set on Moseley, but I knew I couldn't afford a big house with gardens like I had and knew it would have to be a flat. I handed in my notice at work, went travelling for a while and prepared to move house. 

But of course, what about the pets?! Four cats and a dog! It was a no-win situation. I would be unhappy if I stayed where I was, yet I'd be unhappy if I didn't have my pets. It was an awful dilemma to be in. I felt guilt right to my core.

When I got the animals I thought I was going to be able to provide them with a home for life. I had never imagined that I would have had to change my life to the degree where I would be without them. I really thought I was doing the right thing when I gave them a home. I felt like a terrible pet owner, like I should never have taken them in. I didn't deserve them. How could I even think about re-homing them?! I had a duty to them. 

On the flip side. I had a duty to myself. I had to make changes to my life and give myself opportunities. 

It was an awful time. I felt like the worse person in the world. These pets that had given me so much happiness and laughter and love, and there I was betraying them, but slowly and surely I found them all a new home. 

Well, actually, one of the cats, the youngest one, got run over. His name was Marble and he was such a sweet little thing. He looked like a female cat. 

Kim went to a new home with a family and was the only cat there. She had been getting stressed by the other 2 males cats, so at least she was better off having a house to herself. I got a few phone updates from her new family. 

Thank goodness my best friend stepped in and took Toto and Jess. That was such a relief! I got updates and photos from their new home in Lincoln. Jess has since passed away but Toto is still going. I think he must be 16 by now!

Then there was Honey. I found a springer spaniel rescue centre. Coincidentally in Lincoln. The lady who ran it said that she had a couple looking for a female springer. The day I took Honey to Lincoln and said goodbye was heart breaking. Honey had no idea of course and just saw all the travelling as a big adventure. 

She went into her pen at the rescue centre as good as gold. I gave her her chewed up favourite teddy - you can see it in the background in the photo at the top - and said my final farewell to her. The next day the her potential new owners visited with their spring spaniel and he stayed the night with Honey and they got on. Then Honey went for a sleep over at their house, and it all went well. The couple had a little boy too. Soon Honey was in her new home and she settled in really well. She was living in the country side and would have had more stimulation in the house with the other dog and the little boy than she would have done with me, so I guess it all worked out for the best. 

I moved to Moseley and I swore I would never get another pet. I did though. A little harvest mouse. He lived for two years and broke my heart when he died. Once again, I've said never again! Besides I want to move house. I've been in this flat for 8 years and that's the longest I've ever stayed in one home - 6 years is usually the max. And I want to travel. Without pets I am free to do that. 

I've been feeling a bit humdrum this week, which is very unusual for me. I dare the say the constant rain of the British summer is having some affect. Dreaming of Honey last night made me remember a promise I made after I re-homed my pets and moved house; if I was going to give up my animals then I must make it for a worth while reason and not let it be for nothing. 

You may be thinking that Honey was 'just a dog'. I get that. Though she wasn't 'just a dog' to me. 

I searched for about 30 minutes tonight to find a certain photo of Honey I thought I had in a frame somewhere. This is what I found. 

I've taken the photo out and put it somewhere safe, but it's in such a safe place I can't find it! The photo is of Honey on a hot summer day just after she threw herself into a lake and was having the time of her life. 

Honey could somehow have fun every moment she was awake. I could learn a thing or two from her, even all these years later! 

Say Hi on twitter: @karenstrunks

Sunday, 8 July 2012

New and improved

I hope you will think so too!

This has been a work in progress since the beginning of this year.

To back track a little, and to bring you up to speed was initially just for my photography business when I started that in 2008. A lot of things have developed since then as my interest and work in social media has grown, and I have really wanted to update my online profile to reflect everything I'm involved in.

Without further ado, may I introduce you to my new portfolio site!

There are still a few tweaks I want to make, but it's an improvement on what was there before I think. It was ok, very simple but it was rather a static web page and I don't do static very well! ;)

My old website on

I have moved my photography website over to What I am going to use for is a 'hub' for all my online activity; an at-a-glance picture of what I'm doing and where!

I'll still be blogging here (there and everywhere!), but I just really felt the need to have one place that reflected my work.

Say hello on twitter! @karenstrunks
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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Creative Shift: How to network (without the cheese)

Dean Melbourne and Helga Henry from Creative Shift
So, you think you know how to network?

I thought I did. I'm hardly a wall flower, and I like meeting new people. After all, I run the Birmingham Social Media Cafe, a networking event for people who love to use social media, whether that's for work or play. I meet and greet, and make introductions. I try and make sure everyone is having a good time - if it isn't fun you are not going to be at your best after all! I try and speak to everyone who attends and of course I collect and give out my fair share of business cards. However, after attending Creative Shift's Building Business Relationships aka How To Network course yesterday, it seems I am merely scratching the surface of networking!

Yesterday I attended a half day course run by Creative Shift's (formerly Fierce Earth) Helga Henry and Dean Melbourne. There were around a dozen other attendees wanting to know the same thing: How can I improve on my networking skills?

The course promised...
· You have a clear understanding of the value of genuine peer-to-peer business relationships and are confident enough to attend events and functions, get into conversations and swap cards 
· You understand how events and meetings fit into the overall process of business development (and so have a clear idea of why you are there and what you are trying to achieve) 
· You have a number of tools and techniques for entering into a conversation, moving a conversation on and eliciting useful and engaging conversation with those you meet. 
· You correctly put more emphasis on cultivating relationships beyond the initial meeting than just meeting lots of new people 
· You know where you are with a particular developing contact, and know what the next step will be in the process.
The course delivered all that and more. I learnt so much and I now have my own action plan on what I am going to do differently when it comes to networking and just as importantly, what I am going to do after the event! I think it's safe to say everyone there got a lot out of the day.

Last year I went on a 5 day residential course held by Helga and Dean via what was then Fierce Earth. I can't believe I only wrote a brief paragraph about it in a blog post in December. What I learnt on that course still serves me well and I use the skills and knowledge on a day to day basis, and I know I will use what I learnt yesterday every day too. Creative Shift don't do 'dry and corporate' courses and their delivery will keep you hooked and is so worth the investment.

Luckily Creative Shift will be running the Building Better Business Relationship course again, so keep an eye on their website and of course you can follow them on twitter too, @mycreativeshift

Many thanks Hegla, Dean and Creative Shift! :)

Say hello on twitter @karenstrunks
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Monday, 2 July 2012

Secret Cinema: The big Brave New Ventures reveal!

The day has finally arrived and I can finally reveal the film behind my Brave New Ventures mission! Whew and yay!

A message from Brave New Ventures HQ

The missions are over, the recruits demobilised and the cat, ladies and gentleman, is out of the bag. As you may or may not have heard or experienced, the project that Brave New Ventures and Secret Cinema have been working on these past weeks was Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus. This has been the production of a lifetime, and we would like to thank all recruits for assisting in making it what it was. We’ve created a video giving more information on our missions. Enjoy

I won't keep you in suspense a moment longer! Can't see the video? Check it out here

Yes, the Brave New Ventures film was........ Ridley Scott's Prometheus!!

The above video looks amazing, and let me tell you it was every bit as exciting and dynamic at the event itself.

I think it's safe to put up a few of my photos, but the one of me in a boiler suit will NEVER see the light of day!

Getting ready for the event. I thought I might have got away with this outfit and not be made to wear a boiler suit! No luck :D

The cocktail makers where BNV robots

Testing Samples from Outside

Currency Exchange

Waiting to embark on our mission

Brave New Ventures HQ

BNV worker 

I just had to stop mid writing and watch the video again!

I have never been so engaged and interested in a trip to the cinema.

It started back in May when I was recruited to become a Chief Information Officer for Brave New Ventures.  But it wasn't just some email saying 'You've been recruited' and 'turn up on such and such a date'. There was intrigue, there was correspondence, there were missions to complete before full recruitment. Friends and followers were asking me what it was all about and I genuinely had no idea. Of course I was curious enough to just go with the flow, and to take part even though I wasn't sure what I was letting myself in for!

Brave New Cinema had ALL the basis covered in terms of communication and participation. They used social media, they gathered a community; We were on a mission, though we didn't know what mission! We were in it together. Whatever 'it' was!

They created a buzz. Not just online, but offline as well. They hit the streets and amazingly gathered over 400 recruits in the heart of London.

And in the black of night, brave souls took part in some secret data analysis.


We were told what clothes to wear, we were told about items we must bring. We were running about doing as we were told, still without a clue as to why!

This was a far cry from just checking into a cinema on Foursquare. In fact, we didn't even know our final destination until about 10 minutes before hand. By then I think it's safe to say, we were all far too engrossed in events to even think about Foursquare!

This was a perfectly masterminded exercise in mass participation and was so carefully crafted and orchestrated and took in practically every medium of communication. You really felt like you part of a bigger collaboration.

Even BEFORE the point of buying a ticket, people had been engaged and 'recruited'. Participants were taking a leap of faith as they didn't know what they were actually buying a ticket for exactly. In fact, they didn't buy a ticket, they 'invested' in Brave New Ventures and were playing a part in 'securing the future'.

By employing all these methods, how far did the word spread about BNV and Secret Cinema? Not only did the press pick up on it, which is no surprise, but the amount of discussion and guess work that was happening on and offline would have been monumental!

This was never going to be a case of selling seats in a cinema. It was about creating something memorable, (I'm still talking about it now!), interactive, social, virtual, offline and collaborative.

I know that going to my local cinema will never be the same again.


Say hello on twitter: @karenstrunks :)
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