Wednesday, 21 August 2013

In praise of tea shops

Many years ago I had a job that included traveling to America to fix computer system. On one of these trips I had been stuck in a hotel room for too long with deadlines to meet, and was going a little crazy.  So I lugged my laptop across the road to the shopping mall, ordered a cup of tea (no mean feat in the US) and sat working in the middle of all the shops. It was the first time I'd worked out how cheerful it could be to be around strangers.

Since then I've increasingly been a fan of tea shops.  Whether it's for getting out of the study to work, sitting with a book away from the home chores, or just relaxing with a drink and watching the world go by, it's difficult to beat a tea shop.  Sometimes a quick drink & break from the routine is all that's needed.  Other times a pot of tea, with hot water refills available, and a long slow afternoon chatting with friends will hit the spot.  

Mrs C is particularly bad at relaxing when there is work to be done around the house.  And, as you can imagine, with 4 kids around, there is always work to be done around the house.  So we are regularly to be found sharing a drink, and maybe a scone, at one of our local places.

As an adopted Yorkshireman I was brought up proper - drinking tea all the time.  However as I've aged and matured and ventured across the border to Manchester I've also acquired a taste for coffee. But establishments that serve such beverages will always be tea shops in my mind.

Here are some of my favourites

Sykes Cafe

This is my local - just 5 mins round the corner, run by my old friend Sharon, who bakes a lot of the cakes herself. It's pretty small but very friendly, great for a bit of a natter.

This has a great selection of different teas, some comfortable chairs, and big windows & high ceiling giving it a great open feeling.

Costa Coffee

I'm not usually a fan of big chains, but I will always associate Costa with drinks at the Trafford Centre with my friend Ann. You get a great view of people coming and going.  Now there's a local one opened in Stockport which serves until 8 in the evening, which makes it a good venue for a late tea with Mrs C, who is totally not a pub type person.

This was our honeymoon tea shop, right in the middle of the wonderful Peak District town of Castleton. It does the most wonderful cakes, though can get very busy with pesky tourists.

Mrs C says I should also add the following for honourable mention:
The Ash Tea Rooms - a cafe with it's own chocolate workshop next door!
The Little Underbank Tea Rooms - a new place which we've only visited once, but great service and impressive teapots
and most National Trust properties with overpriced but nifty cafes.

Having said all that, there are still some tea shop hurdles to overcome:

Sofa or chair - the sofa always sounds a good idea, comfy and relaxing, but not always the best when you are trying to balance the tea cup & slice of cake while read a book at the same time.

Background music or silence - I'm actually quite a fan of a little quiet background music, but Mrs C finds it very annoying. 

Do you have any favourite places near you?   Where do you stand on the contentious issues?  Leave a comment and share the tea shop love :)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

#Elevensestime, Social Networking and the Bookbinder.

I'm Susan, a bookbinder and I started sharing my morning coffee with the elevensestime crew back in 2009 with my original Twitter account SusanGreenBooks, and I'd like to share my journey in social networking so far.

At the time, I'd been bookbinding for a couple of years, selling online in a small way and was fairly new to Twitter. Without a studio open to the public, I relied on my online presence to build relationships with local and national news and consumer press, galleries, potential customers, fellow bookbinders and those working in associated art and craft practices.

When you're an independent designer-maker, there's really little distinction between your personal and professional lives. Elevensetime helped me find a band of happy folk who have supported me and my endeavours ever since,  whose families, work, projects and travels have become a familiar part of my life every single day. 

Social media is the biggest part of my online marketing strategy, and although I use Facebook, InstagramPinterest, LinkedIn and more recently Google+Twitter remains my primary platform, thanks to its immediacy and focus on individual personal connections, and I've got elevensestime to thank for switching me on to hashtag networking, a major part of building brand presence on Twitter.

In 2011 I was selected as one of Dragons' Den Deborah Meaden's top British businesses for quality Christmas gifts in her #BuyBritishHelpJobs Twitter campaign, and in 2012, I was one of the businesses featured in a Guardian newspaper article: How social media can benefit small businesses. Without elevensetime, where would I have been?

I relaunched as BOUND in time for Christmas 2012, complete with a new twitter account @boundbyhand and I'm happy that elevensestime continues to be a part of my professional and personal life.

So to say thank you to my Twitter followers, from elevensetime and elsewhere, I like to do regular giveaways of a Mini Journal. It's personal, and it's business, and really - there's no distinction. It's good to know you - thanks for being part of the journey.