I know I’m late to this party, but I just want to grab a few minutes to put down, as I say, a few thoughts. It was great to be there again, even though there were a number of differences from the event last year, which was the first time I attended.
The most obvious difference was that the event was fitted into just one day, a Saturday. Views on this varied a lot. I know that it made attendance less workable for some, and more workable for others, the main issue being the impact on the necessary travel and accommodation for attendees. Some, like myself, could manage without staying away from home – a significant cost saving, if you were paying your own expenses. On the other hand, many would have needed to stay away for two nights in order to attend for one long day. Also, I felt this arrangement left less time for chatting to each other!
Another difference, though, and a very positive one, which I think was partly due to the one day arrangement, was that many more babies (and ‘on the way’ babies!) were present. I thought this was particularly lovely, considering that a lot of blogging is about parenting and related issues.
As before (last year) the content of each part of the event was excellent. I’d like to mention one thing specifically, namely, the address to us all from Anne-Marie Cockburn, who spoke with amazing bravery and openness about the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Martha, as a result of taking the drug Ecstasy (This included reading extracts from her book.) To listen was an extremely moving and eye-opening experience.
I’m going to get other small negative points out of the way: I didn’t find the range of commercial sponsors and contributors quite as exciting as last year (that may be just me.) Also, there were just a few moments when I didn’t feel quite as welcome as I’d have liked. (Again, I may be doing people an injustice.)
I’m very happy to say, though, that for by far the most part of the time I felt very much appreciated and accepted, and it was great to meet several bloggers I already knew, and many more whom I’d met ‘on line’ since last year, and could now greet face to face!
I have just one more important point to make, in similar vein to how I felt last year. I shall begin by adding a photo. You’re probably wondering what the roof of St. Pancras Station has got to do with BML16 and blogging. Well, materially, very little, apart from the fact that this photo was taken on the same day. But this sight on the way home got me thinking, from a symbolic and figurative point of view. It’s like this: the whole structure is very strong, functional yet beautiful, often taken for granted, and a great many people were involved in its design and construction.
Now, how like the blogosphere, as we call the world of blogging, is that? You see, I especially commend this to the many bloggers, some known to me, who feel their place in this scheme of things is not very significant. Maybe you were present at this kind of event for the first time, and, after the award ceremony, were left thinking “Well, that’s me put well and truly in my place!” You know, in one way, you’re right. You were put in your place. And your place, dear blogger, is a special one, just for you.
That place is right here. You matter.
That’s right. Alongside those winners of all the awards, many great people I feel honoured to know, you belong. Just like each and every piece of steel in that amazing roof, it would make a difference if you were missing. So, if you came, we are glad you did. If you haven’t done so yet, we’d love to see you next time.
I’ll just make one thing clear: if you were expecting a post about rapid gender-change operations, you’ve, erm, come to the wrong place. You weren’t? Then read on…
First of all, I should state that although ‘Daddy’ isn’t exactly my current title, I have been one. I have trodden before you the road that is being a parent. I have changed nappies and walked the floor, holding a restless infant, at night. But on Friday, the 19th June, 2015, I became, for the first time, a mummy. Yes, really.
Now, then: for the benefit of those of you who weren’t there, and haven’t since heard about it (can anyone not have heard about it?) BritMums Live 2015 was a blast. Everyone was kind, helpful, and friendly. For me, it was great to meet people who, up to now, had been on the other side of the internet (that ‘other side’ by the way, can be anywhere from down the road to across the ocean) as well as many more with whom I had made no previous contact. As I’ve remarked before, the blogosphere is a very warm, inspiring place – something that impressed me just about as soon as I found it.
Being a ‘newbie’ I attended as many tutorial sessions as I had stamina for; this amounted to every time-slot except the last one on Saturday, by which time is was ‘sessioned out’ or whatever the word is. Jim Reeves came to mind again: I had, quite literally, enjoyed as much of this as I could stand. (I hear your mutterings: “Phil and his old songs, again!” Yeah, all right, I know.)
In particular, for me, being past (ahem) a certain age, it was lovely to join in with the circle that was – and is – Post-40 Bloggers, and meet each other to discuss what this platform is really about. (Take a bow, Mel and the team.)
I should next particularly mention the ‘Brilliance in Blogging’ award ceremony on Friday, and the Bloggers’ Keynote recitals, by the authors of these brilliant posts, on Saturday. Others have, I am sure, covered the details of these two sections of the event in detail, and much better than I could. All I want to say about them is that, considered together, I doubt that anyone present was not (at different times) helpless with laughter, awestruck, and reduced to tears (unless they had hearts of stone – but there was certainly no evidence of that throughout the event.)
But now I want to tell you what I was particularly thinking about, as we all reluctantly dispersed from the venue. You see, it had by now occurred to me that a number of lovely attendees just might have been thinking something like this:
“It’s been great, but… oh, I dunno… All these amazing blogs and bloggers… What’s the point of me even trying any more…?”
Gentle blogger, there is every point, as I shall explain. The clue is in the title above. It has to do with a part of the event to which I have not yet referred.
The organisers had arranged with the people at what we call GWR to provide an icebreaker activity. No, not the Great Western Railway, much as I have a high regard for that oh-so-inspiring pioneer of engineering Isambard Kingdom Brunel (just look him up) but… Guinness World Records.
At risk of repeating myself by inference, I should say that any activity for that purpose alone would have been superfluous. The only ice in evidence was either (a) in ice buckets for cooling wine, or (b) inside large glass jars with taps on, which also contained either water, or an incredibly refreshing sparkling concoction that tasted of cucumber and elder-flowers (which it was meant to – it was gorgeous stuff.) But I digress… You do, Phil. All right, all right…
Well, the Guinness World Records people gave us some of the background and history of the organisation and the famous book, and told us that we were going to attempt – right then – to break an official record, under the watchful gaze of their adjudicators! And that record was…
The most people wrapped as mummies in three minutes!
So appropriate, eh? The team demonstrated the wrapping technique – using toilet paper – on their own model, so that we could see how it was done quickly. By this time, we had already formed small groups of about four. It was then necessary for each group to agree who would be the ‘mummy’. This is where the story gets a bit more personal; here in the group is Phil – not very tall, dressed simply, in trousers and shirt, and, of course, without those parts of the female form that tend to make the wrapping process more time-consuming. It would have been extremely bad form not to volunteer, yes?
At the start signal, the real fun began. Well, I can honestly say that getting wrapped thoroughly in toilet paper isn’t such a big ordeal, except that it’s quite hard to balance on one foot (so that the other foot can be wrapped) while holding your arms out as well. If you’ve never been mummified, trust me on this one. But, as I said, getting wrapped was no big challenge… Getting wrapped, I said, was no big challenge. Staying wrapped until the adjudicator got to me (I must have been about the last) was quite another matter. Toilet paper traps air. Air and paper are both fairly good heat insulators. Add to this the fact that excessive movement of any kind will tear the vital mummifying loo-roll, and lead to immediate disqualification… you get the idea?
I was getting very warm, and very muscle-weary. Ten minutes (ish) seemed like two hours. Finally, my team-mates tore the paper off my face, assuring me that I had been counted in, not disqualified! (I’m sorry I can’t show you a photo, by the way. I should have asked one of my ‘wrappers’. You will appreciate that a selfie was out of the question. You’ll find photos of other ‘mummies’ elsewhere, quite easily.)
Later, we all learnt that the record had been broken – by just one mummy. The new record was fifty-one instead of fifty! I was ecstatic; Phil, at the back, must surely have been that vital fifty-first, mais non?
Phil! Really! For shame! Such egotism!
Ah, but wait: I would now like to address my partners in this hilarious tomfoolery (as well as the mummifying teams) and tell you all that you, each and every individual one of you, were also the fifty-first! Because, without you, the record would not have fallen.
And now, I’d like to give this message to anyone in the blogging community, who feels inadequate: I have the answer for you. You know, in just the same way, this warm, cosy, comfortable (and comforting) piece of internet wouldn’t be the same without… you. You are, to plagiarise our friends at Guinness World Records, officially amazing.
A word mentioned a lot during the serious parts of the whole BritMums Live event was integrity. And rightly so. Every true blogger feels that they blog on their honour. I need hardly add that this is of intense relevance where brands are concerned, but it applies all the time, in any case. A little tongue-in-cheek fun that doesn’t hurt anybody is OK now and then; deception or calumny is not. It is a quiet, solemn, yet intensely friendly commitment. And inside that mutual commitment, whether you like to blog about parenting, travel, craft, fashion, photography, technology… whatever style of memes and linkys (linkies?) you care (or don’t care) to participate in, we appreciate and love
Well, that’s about it, for now. Oh, just one more thing: if you’re feeling cold, forget that designer parka on that fashion website, that you’ve been drooling over, hoping that, when sale time comes round, they’ll have one left in your size. What you need is… three or four layers of good quality toilet roll. Applied from head to toe. Thank you.
This week, I’m posting this picture to celebrate my visit to London for the first time in, erm, let’s just say, several years…! The City of London itself, of course, is just one square mile, in the middle of what we country folk think of as ‘London’ – with its own police force!
As for Britmums Live, we’ll come to that, later!