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Archive for March, 2016

After much soul-searching and serious consideration I’ve made the heart-wrenching decision to close or more accurately shut down (since it’s an internet based entity), my ‘business’ 3 Days in London.goodbye

3 Days in London came about through my passion for sharing the many beautiful places and amazing secrets I had discovered in London during my many walkabouts. Born out of that passion the first few years were a labour of love, a joy that lifted my heart whenever I go into the city, and while that joy is still there, the business of 3DiL has become a weight on my heart.

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I’ve invested years, months, days and many thousands of hours on my twitter account, sharing articles and snippets of information ….for FREE. Likewise the website and my facebook page.  I get very very little interest or activity on either despite spending money on facebook ads. I’m disheartened when I look at the analytics and discover that although I spend up to 8 hours creating a website article to make it as interesting as possible and adding relevant images, people spend maybe 22 seconds on the site….evidently the content is not of sufficient interest for them to stay longer. And according to the ‘experts; those gurus of social media’ we’re meant to post at least three times a week!!!

Facebook changes it’s algorithyms more often than I change my knickers, and Google do the same!! How the heck do you keep up!FB_IMG_1444374062426

During 2010-2012 I created 3 one-day itineraries of London, full days guaranteed to give visitors a full-on experience of London. Trying to find a suitable site to upload them to for ease of use and ensure I get paid something without most of the money going to the relevant site has been…what shall I say? Difficult!. Self-publishing sites charge a fortune and I don’t have the necessary skills to set the itineraries up by myself…as well as which the cost of installing a shopping basket is mind-numbingly expensive. And by the time the publishing site and paypal have deducted their commission, I’d need to sell hundreds to have anything resembling an income and thousands to cover the initial costs.

3DiL App

The 3 Days in London App

In 2013 I designed and set up the 3Dil app. The developer was meant to give me statistics and reports were discussed at the initial meeting. It took nearly two years just to get anything set up on-line, but to date I am still unable to get anything that resembles a decent format, certainly nothing that I’m able to access unless I have my computer with me, something that I can use, so that I can approach relevant businesses for a mutual arrangement so that I can start earning some money. Unless I sit down every day and obtain the information manually……but that was not the original agreement. Can you imagine if I approach a Boutique Hotel or Restaurant to set up a business deal for renting space on the app….. ”How many downloads do you have on a daily and monthly basis?” Uhmmmm. “Oh a lot”. “How many active users?” “Gee well, I’d have to look every day and add it up manually”. How many uninstalls do you have on a monthly basis?”  Uh gosh, actually my developer says that she is unable to give me that information”. “Oh well, sorry but we can’t do business on a wing and a fcking prayer”.  The App has cost me well over £3500.00 to date. The app itself is free for users to download. It doesn’t make any sense at ALL to continue if it can’t pay for itself.

Besides being unable to get the information I need, most of my emails, phone calls and text message are ignored. When I follow up, I’m told ‘oh I didn’t get the email’ or ‘ oh my phone wasn’t working’. Yeah right.

Lesson #1 don’t do business with a friend.

In 2014 I redesigned my website, to make it more user friendly and useful; provide a resource for visitors to London. Gave it to a website developer, someone who should have been trustworthy. After fiddle faddling for months with excuses and delays, bearing in mind I had already paid her a substantial sum of money to get started, I put a bit of pressure on to get the first draft – that alone it took nearly 6 months!!!, and the total cock-up she sent through sent me into meltdown. I fired her immediately. I didn’t get my money back.

In 2014 investing a whole lot of time, I created a calendar for 2015 showing annual and traditional events in London. That met with some success with some of my friends and family buying their copies….it was so thrilling! I didn’t make much profit on them, but I so enjoyed making them and when someone actually bought them!! Wow 🙂

2015 London calendar

so, inspired by this, I spent weeks compiling the 2016 calendar, sorting through photos, sourcing quotes to suit the images, and researching the dozens of annual and traditional events in London over the year….a few of my facebook friends bought some and an ‘Angel’ saved the day and bought 4 copies.

0 2016 calendar collated 2016 The rest lie on a shelf at home; I made a loss due to the total lack of interest… I put some money into Facebook ads, promoted it on Twitter, on my website, on instagram, but sadly there was no real interest.

In 2015 I spent months compiling the ‘While You Are There…53 Places to visit in London’ book, painstaking hours of finding interesting information and photos to fit, designing and rearranging the pages, the formatting is sheer murder; if you change one sentence you could end up having to reformat dozens of pages…after all that I sold 3 copies and made £13.46 in profit after deductions and tax.cover image sq - While You Are There Self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted!!! Thanks to my one facebook friend for his support )Peter B, you know who you are 😉 )and to my lovely instagram friend for her support (Jaeden, you know who you are 😉 ). On the plus side, I sent one to The Queen last year in September and apparently she liked it 😉 I even got a letter of thanks from her Lady-in-Waiting. – what a cool title.

Besides all of this, the website keeps crashing. I’ve got all the correct security in place, the spam blockers…et etc. But each time it crashes I have to phone the hosting company to fix it. They now won’t help unless I pay them £40 a time! It’s just getting too much. It sends me into a spiral of frustration and depression when I try to log on and a message tells me ” Bandwidth has been exceeded”. wtf??? Seriously. grrrIMG-20141203-WA0005

I can’t compete with the likes of Visit London, Londonist and Time Out. Clearly whatever it is I’m doing, is not working.

Over the last 6 years the business has cost me well over £8,000. I have maybe made £150 turnover from the sale of products. There is clearly a discrepancy here and I won’t be retiring any time soon on the proceeds! I wasn’t even looking to retire on the proceeds, I was however hoping to generate enough income to allow me to spend more time in London and have a life besides working.

They say you can’t flog a dead horse…..well at the moment that’s what it feels like…..I’m flogging a dead horse. I reached breaking-point in September 2014 at which stage I nearly shut the whole thing down out of sheer frustration. After I recovered my equilibrium I decided to give it one more go….but nothing’s changed, I still can’t get what I need from the app, the website keeps crashing, I’m not prepared to spend another £900 on having a new site designed and what’s the point of having products if no-one buys them…..clearly it’s not what people are looking for. …..I’m fed up. If I look at the reality, then it’s time to say goodbye and move on.IMG-20150311-WA0017

So after almost 6 years of working at the business every spare minute, starting early in the morning and finishing late at night when at home, seldom even getting up from my chair even to eat, and snatching every spare minute while working away from home.

Am I sad? Yes, I’m devastated, having the dream has kept me sane the last 6 years. I adore London, I love to share information, I love to attend the events and explore her many streets and alleyways, but I can no longer support what is not serving me. London will always have a very special place in my heart and I certainly won’t stop exploring and enjoying.FB_IMG_1444420460011

An ‘Angel’ said to me a few weeks ago…..”What would happen if you closed this door?” And so on the premise that when one door closes another one opens, as of 31/03/2016, just 38 days short of the 6th anniversary, 3 Days in London will cease to exist.

On the plus side I have met some wonderful people, many of whom have become really good friends. I have through one of those friends been able to participate in some fantastic events; The Green Man in 2013, The Tudor Pull in 2013 & 2014 and the Magna Carta River Relay in 2015….thanks Joe (and Malcolm) 🙂 I’m forever grateful for those opportunities.2013.01.06 Green Man Event & trinity Tide

I’ve been invited to a number of previews with Historic Royal Palaces…I remember receiving my first invitation…..thrilling just doesn’t describe it.2013.08.21 Press Preview - Line of Kings ToL  I’ve also been invited to previews of exhibitions in the City of London, mostly notably through the wonderful people at Guildhall, and invited to do a few reviews at restaurants…again, what a thrill to receive the invitation. I hope I did them justice.2015.02.02 Press Review - VOC Bar

But now I can go to events and exhibitions to just enjoy the moment – without worrying about an angle to follow, without feeling like I have to share as much information about said event so that folks don’t miss out, and without feeling like I have to do anything more than just enjoy myself.

As well as which, I can now start travelling – there is so much of the UK and Europe I still want to see before leaving this earthly coil, and time is running out. Am I tired of London?13. cover No…..In the words of Samuel Johnson “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Love London
I love London and it will always be my most favourite place on the planet, and I have no doubt I will return again and again.

So for now it’s au revoir 3 Days in London, and c’est la vie

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Last weekend on one of my breaks I had the use of the car…..since I’m working tantalisingly near to Hampton Court Palace, I simply had to visit. It really is my absolute favourite palace in London and despite having visited dozens of times in the last 5 years, I never get tired of another.

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how can you fail to be impressed

It gives me a thrill to walk through the halls and along passageways where people like Wolsey, Cromwell, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, George I to name but a few of history’s famous and notorious characters walked centuries before.

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in the footsteps of history…

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the first thing you see as you enter through the main gate

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Base Court

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the magnificent ceiling above The Queen’s Staircase

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Yeoman Warders uniforms

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fine dining with the Georgians

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exquisite fashions of the Georgians

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the ceiling of Queen Caroline’s State Bedchamber

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Fountain Court; the Tudor Palace peeks above the Georgian Palace built by Christopher Wren

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The Moat. I remember a couple of years ago when we had those terrible floods, the moat was full of water. It looked quite amazing actually.

Hampton Court Palace is a treasure house.

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I had a bit of a computer detox last week (in fact I didn’t open my computer for 9 days! – something of a record) and spent all my free time reading. I enjoyed both books tremendously.book review
1) recommended to me by one of my instagram connections… ‘The Gunner Girl’ by Clare Harvey – this story caught my attention in the very first sentence and kept me turning the pages, at times breathless with anticipation of which way the story was going to go. Set during the Second WW it follows the lives of 3 girls from very different backgrounds, thrown together by the war, the story twists and turns, at times happy, at others heartbreaking , the descriptions made me feel like I was right there with them…I could almost smell the air and hear the sounds of London during The Blitz. If I hadn’t needed to sleep and work, I would have read through the night till the last page. The story made me both laugh and cry and wail in despair…..sometimes life is just so bloody unfair.  Overall it was a wonderful read, ending too soon for me.

2) ‘Beneath the Bleeding’ by Val McDermid – one of my favourite authors, Val never disappoints and this book was no different, especially as I’m partial to our man Dr Tony Hill (of Wire in the Blood fame played by Robson Green). A thoroughly good murder mystery story line, I read till the wee hours and every spare minute during the day…a real page turner.

Prior to these two, just 3 weeks ago I read another two books… ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’ by Jenny Colgan and ‘Standing in another Man’s Grave’ by Ian Rankin.  The first book by Jenny Colgan was a first foray into this author’s writing, and what a delightful book it was. After finishing the book I felt like I wanted to jump on the first train to Cornwall and open a bakery on a small island…..not that I want to give away the story-line LOL.  It was delightful – again, one of those books that makes you laugh and cry and wail with despair. As with Val McDermid, Ian Rankin is an old favourite and I have read many of his books; his central character John Rebus is well-known to me….metaphorically speaking.book review

In my younger days (aeons ago) I used to read vociferously. Even as a very young girl, if my mother was looking for me, she would look no further than a corner in my room or behind a curtain. I remember reading a wide variety of books, mimicking my Mother’s favourite leisure activity…reading. In fact she was in the middle of a book; King Solomon’s Mines when she died…..I finished off the book some years later.  When reading I would be transported, my ears mysteriously filled with cotton wool, so absorbed would I be in the story.  I have been known to read through the night just to finish a book.  I also used to drive my Mother to distraction because sometimes I became so impatient to ‘know’ what happened that I would read the last page….LOL. But then I could just sit back and relax and enjoy the story.  At school I earned many a nickname, not all complimentary, because of my love of books.

The last few years have seen me busy online building my website and totally absorbed with social media…and precious little reading.  I’m glad I’ve taken some time out to get back into the life between the pages of a book.

When my daughter was a wee girl I would read to her at night before she went to sleep…oh wait….it was me who fell asleep!! hahaha. A firm favourite was ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton. I can’t tell you how often she would wake me up during our good night ritual.  She learned to read pretty quick….I wonder why!! And still today, she will be transported to other worlds by the magic of a book and  I still fall asleep when reading out loud. 🙂 Some things never change.

 

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Combine plush carpets, soft lighting, deep comfortable chairs, velvet curtains, fine china, cucumber sandwiches, scones with strawberry jam, lashings of clotted cream and pots of tea served by waiters in smart suits, with a train journey and what do you get?…….Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, for Mother’s Day!!

Just two days before Mother’s Day (after much secrecy and veiled hints) my daughter gave me a posh white, gold trimmed envelope. With impatient fingers and excited eagerness I pulled it open to reveal tickets for Afternoon Tea on Belmond British Pullman Orient Express for Mother’s Day!! Whoop whoop!IMAG1890 - mothers day 2016 One of my dream journeys, I had previously, with my daughter, watched the Orient Express roll into Broadstairs Station on a couple of occasions – to the wide-eyed envy of the seaside town’s residents.

A whoosh of smoke and a flurry of brakes squealing on the tracks, this marvellous beast pulled into the station and disgorged it’s passengers onto the platform some months ago. With shrieks of delight and screams of laughter the ladies in exotic attire and gentleman in suits spilled from the carriages to the sounds of the welcoming oom pah pah Big Brass Band – okay only three brasses 😉 and the shouts of the stewards.

Accompanied by glasses of champagne they quaffed fresh oysters and chatted nineteen to the dozen as the music played loudly, cameras flashed and stewards kept a watchful eye on their wayward charges.

Then to the shrill piercing scream of the Guards whistle the passengers of the Orient Express headed back to their chosen carriages, soon to be swallowed up and off they went with a chuff chuff chuff of the engine, black smoke puffing skywards as the residents of Broadstairs cheered and waved…..

And now it was our turn! After seeing that lot at Broadstairs I was ever so keen to add that to my bucket list and cross it off as soon as possible LOL.

IMAG1894 - mothers day 2016My daughter who is a genius at planning surprises and arranging things she knows I’d like to do, bought tickets for a trip on this elegant train from Victoria Station to Paddock Wood.

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We set off real early on the HS1 to Kings Cross and with a quick trip on the tube to Victoria Station we were there well early! In fact there were only 2 other couples there that early. 🙂

That soon changed and at 2pm on the dot the Pullman offices opened and with excitement mounting we traipsed along the red carpet to the check in desk! BY now there were a whole lot more people, and there was a real buzz of excitement.IMAG1885 - mothers day 2016Outside, a band made up of 3 delightful ladies, entertained the waiting guests with tunes from the 40’s. Soon we were all swinging along to familiar tunes! How splendid.

In no time at all we were invited to board and excitedly made our way to our designated carriage; Cygnus.IMAG1912 - mothers day 2016

Ohmygosh!!! What a marvellous experience. The interior of the carriages are beautifully decorated with plush read velvet curtains swept back with a gold loop, each table set with fine china and a single rose in an elegant glass vase accommodated 2 guests apiece. The exquisitely embroidered high-back armchairs invited us to lean back, relax and chill out! LOL Frankly, I loved that chair and I can quite see why folks with posh houses like them so much….very inviting, they enfold you within a cocoon of comfort.

On the dot of 2.45pm we felt the train ever so gently start moving…..hoorah we were on our way.
No sooner had we pulled out of Victoria Station than our dedicated waiters were on hand with pots of tea, and delicate freshly made quiches, sandwiches and delicacies that melt on the tongue. The scones and jam with cream were delicious, closely followed by sweet delights. We ate and ate and ate and drank copious cups of tea, all the while relaxing, chatting desultorily and viewing the passing scenery. Sublime!

We soon reached the end of the track where we waited a short while for the engine to move forward and then we were off again on our return journey to London Victoria, arriving way too soon for my liking.IMAG1954 - mothers day 2016

Although the weather outside was frightful, we were snug and warm in our cosy carriage,IMAG1926 - mothers day 2016

gently swaying along the tracks, the sounds of laughter and conversation just a few feet away but totally unobstrusive. It turns out our carriage has a famous history….she was part of the Winston Churchill’s funeral train in 1965 as well as used in the special Festival of Britain in 1951. I bought myself a British Pullman mug…a souvenir to be used in the future when I travel around the United Kingdom in my motor-home. 🙂

In all a fantastic way to spend Mother’s Day and I can highly recommend it as a treat.

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After all the excitement of my citizenship ceremony and all the stress of the months leading up to this final step, I was quite worn out….I had also been working the last two weeks and that alone leaves me quite ready for a break. So to that end, I spent the first 3 days of my new found citizenship hibernating…..I didn’t step outdoors at all except once to throw out the trash. Instead I switched off all my social media, left my computer in it’s case and curling up on the couch I read and read and read accompanied by copious amounts of teaeverything stops for tea….I’m British now, it’s my obligation to drink tea!!

books i have read (1)The first book I read on Friday was by a hitherto unread author: Jenny Colgan – ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’.  A delightful romp in a Cornish village on a Cornish island off the mainland near Plymouth (which is in Devon). A comedic light read, I found the story enchanting and found myself yearning to pack my bags and move to Cornwall and open a bakery! The sense of community, albeit with it’s fair share of villains and crackpots, gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that ran from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I can highly recommend this book for a Sunday afternoon when you can just sit and relax and let the cares of the world fade into oblivion while you slip between the covers and enjoy a delightful journey to Cornwall. Be warned though, there are some tears to be shed!

 

books i have read (2)The 2nd book that I read, on Saturday (I’m a quick reader and usually manage to finish a book in one day), was an old favourite: Ian Rankin – ‘Standing in another man’s grave’, featuring Inspector John Rebus, that curmudgeonly Police Inspector from Scotland. I love Ian Rankin’s books, tight, tense and fast paced but so highly descriptive you feel like you’re almost travelling in the same car as yer man Rebus.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story; with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy it raced through the Scottish Highlands at an alarming rate. It always gives me a thrill to read about places I have visited since living in the UK, and this book didn’t disappoint….with a visit to Chanonry Point of particular delight as I spent many an afternoon or early morning at that very place during an assignment nearby a few years ago.

However, I didn’t get to see any dolphins….perhaps a return visit is on the cards.IMAG8540

After reading the two books and returning briefly to instagram, I posted a photo of the books and commented on how much I had enjoyed them. One of my instagram friends then said she had ordered Jenny Colgan’s book for a friend and someone else mentioned a book that had been released by a friend of her that she thought I might enjoy: Clare Harvey ‘The Gunner Girl’. I ordered the book and look forward to sharing my thoughts once I have read it.

I’m heading up to London for the day on Thursday, one to finalise my passport application and please god it gets back to me before my SA trip and to visit the dentist….that I am not looking forward to, but it’s now rather urgent. Other than that I’m heading to Ramsgate on Saturday for the Spitfire 80th anniversary events. Well excited for that. On Sunday of course here in the UK it’s Mother’s Day and apparently my daughter has planned a super surprise which I’m really looking forward to.

 

 

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