Thursday, 28 June 2012

Britmums Live 2012: A review

Apparently "mummy bloggers" have power and influence.  This is supported by the 2 million people that the #britmumlive hashtag reached on Twitter over the weekend.  The Britmums Live 2012 conference played host to 500 attendees, but it's reach was far, far wider.

When I started blogging three years ago, I didn't anticipate that I'd be sat in a conference venue in London, surrounded by people who are batting off PR requests, being quoted in the national newspapers and being provided with numerous freebies by companies keen to get bloggers to review their products favourably. 

I felt a little like a fish out of water... to say the least!

Britmums Live 2012

It's Katy Hill!
The 2 day Britmums Live conference was incredibly well organised and the Agenda comprehensive.  An eclectic group of speakers had been booked, including Ruby Wax, Sarah Brown, Katy Hill and Cherry Healy.  According to the paperwork, top bloggers and experts were going to provide expert opinion and tips and techniques to enable us all to improve our blogs.

The highlights for me, other than the fun of checking out if my mental images of folk I'd never met were accurate (Click here for more on First Impressions), were the Brilliance in Blogging Awards, and the  Bloggers' Keynote.  I hadn't expected the showcase of bloggers and posts respectively to be quite so emotional.  I laughed, snorted, giggled, wept and was moved by the content.  Note to self: take tissues next time.

Unfortunately I noticed very quickly that the advertised 'titles' of many of the other Agenda items were, once you got there, not as advertised on the tin.  

Not as advertised on the tin

Ruby's Prevailing through adversity: how I bear the tsunami of all depressions didn't technically tell you how she bears the tsunami of all depressions.  She talked a lot about her new website and about whether we needed anonymity to discuss mental illness.  It was an interesting discussion; just not quite what I'd expected.

Roundtable: British Blogging now - this was one of the best discussions I saw over the weekend.  Carla Busazi, editor-in-chief of Huffington Post UK, was elequent in her questioning and control of the discussion. The bloggers on the sofa; from Danial Elton, Managing Director of blog Left Foot Forward, to Steve Keenan, online travel editor for The Sunday Times, gave a varied and frank opinion, which they didn't always agree on (refreshing).  The consensus appeared to be that bloggers were breaking down the traditional journalistic boundaries and opening up discussions that may not otherwise be had.  There was also an indication that the panel felt that many newspapers would very quickly move to digital only formats.

Crossing the Chasm
I was a little disappointed in the Blogger's studio: Crossing the Chasm, how to bring your blog up to the next level.  I think because no-one knew what they meant by 'next level'.  For me, it would be improving content so that readers were ejoying it and sharing with friends.  For many of the bloggers there, it was something different and so the discussion was at best a little vague.

The most useful practical tips that I scribbled down furiously came from Melinda Fargo who blogs at HerMelness Speaks.  She helpfully listed a set of things to think about; a checklist (and I love lists!). She has helpfully reproduced it on her blog here, which is good because my scribbled notes only add up to 9 things; not 10.  Ooops.

Of the other workshops I attended among the many on offer I found that the social media ones didn't meet expectations; I didn't get the 'manageable plan' I was promised in Creating a social media plan that works, I was just told to make one.  I wanted more.  I wanted nitty gritty. 

But I did get a lot of useful information from SEO tips and Legal Essentials; 55 minutes could have been doubled; and from Perks and Pounds by Erica Douglas; clear, concise, and delivered what it promised.  It was unfortunately in the minority.

And so, overall, I was left with a distinct feeling of not quite having got what I expected.  What I did get was fun, informative and in some instances incredibly useful; but it hadn't been what was advertised on the tin.

Newbie and Professional? 


I was also struck by the way the speakers assumed we were all experts - even in Beginners Blogging sessions.

Even Erica Douglas amusingly asked for 'hands up' those that are batting off the PR requests at the moment, as apparently she's being inundated.  That's lovely, for her.  But for us newbie bloggers who dream of being approached by a PR department, it's a little patronising and depressing.  Er no; I felt like saying. Not so much. Can you bat some of yours my way?

On another occassion a speaker said "Even if you've only got a 1000 page views a day".  Again I say; er no.  Still dreaming of that very big number and you are making it sound like it's pitifully small.

I just think the bloggers that have been doing it a while need to remember that their audience includes people who do know the lingo and have been around the block; but ALSO includes those that know nothing other than how to write a few elequent words on a blog post and hopefully entertain their readers.


I was also starving at the end of the Friday, to the point of feeling slightly nauseous as no food, other than the odd cake that we were too busy to spot and grab, was provided between 2pm and 8pm.

In summary

It seems like I've been on a downer on the event there.  Maybe it's the adrenalin that's finally ran out.

Maybe it's the realisation that the goodies I came home with were all for my children, and 'my' loot consisted of a TKMax compact, some anti-bacterial hand-gel, a paperback novel I'm not sure I'll read and 6 various packets of baby wipes.  You just can't please some people eh?


My ideas for an improved event next year include the following:

Feed the bloggers on the first day; between the workshops and the wine and awards.  Many of us have travelled down before the start of the conference, not necessarily having time to eat much before registration at 2pm.  We are also mums, and so many are used to eating at 5pm before starting the whole bath, story, teeth, bed routine.  Instead, we were given the smallest nibbles I've ever seen at 6pm alongside free flowing champagne.  It was a recipe for many sore heads.  In our case, we hotfooted it back to the hotel after the awards and finally tucked into a delicious steak and chips at around 9pm.

The Lab
Have some workshops that are more informal discussions, and other's that are very technical - maybe calling it 'The Lab', where tools like Facebook, Google+, PInterest, can be gone through in greater detail, maybe even trouble shooting user problems there and then.

Newbie / Professional
Include some absolute beginners 'newbie' sessions, where subjects like SEO can be gone through in greater detail and a more basic pace for the newbies.  Similarly, faster paced advanced sessions for the pro's.

Say what it says...
Be careful that the speakers know what question they are being asked to answer in their presentation.  

And that's it.  My review.  If you have any questions about the event, I am happy to delve into my scribbles to see if I can decipher my notes!  The official Britmums Live site for more information and advance notice of next year's event is here.

Feel free to drop me a line at, visit my facebook page here, or follow me on Twitter here at @ymummyreally. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Yummy in my head, but not in real life? First impressions; before you've even met...

The notion of a 'yummy mummy' is almost entirely down to looks.  

Not solely; in my head yummy mummies manage to be permanently happy, smiling, glowing (from all the sex they are getting), kind, considerate and above all calm.  But, in the main, she is thin (healthily so, with strong muscles), fashionable and preened.  She has manicured nails, perfectly styled hair and perfect just-there make-up.  

And when I see a woman with those 'looks', I make judgements.  I judge how happy I think she is, I judge what television I think she watches, what music she listens to and what interests she has.  In a split second I have a fully-rounded person in my head.  Then, as I get to know them better, the judgements adapt accordingly.

What is interesting is that I also make the same judgements about people I have never met, based only on the smattering of information I know about them, what other's have said, and heavily influenced by my experiences.  

I do this before meeting them and often find that the image of the person that I was holding in my head; the temporary 'egg' shape that appears as your avatar before you finally get around to downloading your picture; looks nothing, and I mean nothing, like the person in real life.

This morning a friend of mine was astonished.  She had just met someone in person for the first time, but knew some of their family already.  She explained how, in her head, this lady was; tall, skinny, blonde, brisk, stern, business-like, suited and formal.

How strange then, that the person actually turned out to be; slightly above average height, skinny, brunette, shy, understated, jeans-wearing, friendly, relaxed, nervous and very informal.

My friend couldn't work out how she'd managed to get the avatar in her head so completely wrong.  She was intrigued how she'd formulated that image, and what experiences must have collated together to present that data.  She wondered what the family members must have said in the past to contribute to that mental image.

I similarly have had occasions where I've met someone, they've told me their name, I've said "Ohhhh, so you're……" and been shocked at how wrong my mental picture was.

Have you had any similar occasions?  Does your 'image' of someone change if you speak to them on the phone?
Have you ever thought that someone's voice didn't fit with what they looked like?  What is that all about?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Apologies.... It's BRITMUMS LIVE!

I'm sorry.  Really sorry.  But today it's all about Britmums Live 2012.  I am on the train, feeling very geeky with my mobile providing me with a lovely WI-FI hotspot listening to increasingly drunk men starting their London-bound hen party early and drinking coffee. I'm drinking coffee; they are drinking Tetleys.  How Northern are well?

The lovely Amanda Ashton is sitting with me, trying to keep up with the increasing speed of the #britmumslive tag on Twitter.

We are getting increasingly giddy, excited and nervous all at the same time.  I am about to come face to face with a whole batch of bloggers that I've never met before but have chatted with on-line.  I just hope I don't scare them off.

I've managed to get my hair re-coloured (no roots today - so it's not exactly a realistic picture they are getting!) and I've even had a manicure.  I am pulling out all the stops here!

Managed to forget the hair dryer though, so I just hope I don't look too scarecrow-like tomorrow morning.

Hi to everyone that is traveling down (or indeed up) the country (or indeed world) to  converge on London.  See you all there!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


We are at the seaside and my hubby has taken the eldest out to swim in the sea. 

It's a lovely large sandy beach and the water is not particularly deep and it stays so for quite a while, providing a very large area for swimming and splashing and lounging about on lilos (if so inclined) quite safely.  

She, the 6 year old, is swimming with an inflatable ring around her waist for ease.  He's encouraging her to kick her legs and practice her swimming strokes as she's been taking lessons.
They've been in the sea a fair while, so it's not entirely unexpected when she says:

"I need the toilet, daddy"

Daddy does what, let's face it, most daddy's would do when faced with this question at nearly a hundred yards from the shore. He explains, in hushed tones, that it's really alright to go to the toilet out in the sea when you are that far out.  After all; it's all very natural and no-one will ever know.  And of course, it saves him rushing her in to the beach and up to the hotel.

A few minutes later she grins and says; "Done it!" and carries on swimming.  

Daddy is pleased with his parenting skill so far in, what could have been a taxing situation.

They swim some more.

And Daddy catches sight of a leaf in the sea.  

He thinks it's odd, being so far out, so he looks a little more closely.  

It's not a leaf.

Daddy wasn't entirely specific enough when he explained what was acceptable in the sea.  In fact he really ought to have explained what was and what wasn't.

He quickly moved away from the floating 'leaf' and said to her urgently.

"Did you just have a wee wee, dear?"

"No daddy" she says, sweet and innocent as pie. "I did a poo poo too" she adds proudly.

Parenting skills have taken a blow.  Daddy knows he needs a quick recovery.  Clean up will be required if he has any hope of keeping this minor error a secret. He whispers to her that actually it's not really good form to do 'those' in the sea, and he gets her to quickly whip off her swimsuit so that he can 'clean it out'.  

They are a long way out, and there's a lot of space around them, so hopefully no one will notice.

He cleans the swimsuit up, scrapping them out with his hands (euuuwww), and pops them back on her and looks around them to check if he's got away with it. 

A fellow is floating quite close to them now on a lilo, but other than that, there isn't anyone particularly close by.  

He thinks they've got away with it.
That is until he spies, out of the corner of his eyes, the man on the lilo suddenly flinch, and start back-peddling quickly in the opposite direction.

I guess the 'leaf' was heading his way......


I am lucky to have such an honest husband that, in the interests of providing bloggable material he felt he really couldn't keep this secret, well, a secret.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Topless water slides anyone?

The summer is supposedly upon us; it is June after all; and if you are packing your cases for your summer holidays you'll no doubt be packing a bikini, or a tankini, or a swimsuit (bather, cossie) in the hope that there will be good weather to be had.

Those of you who are going on holidays sans children may well be packing these items with only a view to whether you have this season's trend or not.  You may be considering how much, or how little, skin they cover depending on how comfortable you are with your body.

But, unless you are still in your twenties and going on an activity holiday with friends, the chances are you haven't packed your swimwear with consideration as to what type of water slide they may be subjected to.

If you do have children you may suddenly find yourself, 10 years after last plummeting down a ridiculously designed water slide into water that really needs a kettle or two of boiling water adding to it, sat at the top of one such slide in a swimsuit that you fear may not cut the mustard; so to speak.

You see, women's beach wear isn't designed for water slides.  More formal women's swimwear might be; the sort of all-in-one swimsuit that the Olympic competitors may wear.  That kind of swimsuit would withstand anything you throw at it.  But, do you really want to be sat, by the pool, in hotter climes, next to the skinniest, tanned, bikini clad 18 year old, with your all-in-one Adidas piece on?  I would humbly suggest not.

So what to do? 

Freya do a good line in tankinis that incorporate 'proper' bras in them (with adjustable fastenings and everything).  These supply good support when hurtling downhill at speed.  Similarly, Figleaves do structured, under wired, all in ones that are flattering and won't be mistaken for competition cast offs.  They also have 20% off at the moment.  Just enter TWENTY at the check out.

What you can't rely on are the usual basic bikinis that grace the pages of every fashion magazine every spring.

That is, unless you are deliberately expecting to arrive at the bottom of that chute with breasts on show for all to enjoy.  If that's the case, then fine, go buy in complete freedom.  If not, elastic, structure and under wiring are your best friends, allowing you to not be 'that' embarrassing mother!  Been there.  Done that. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

School Uniform: Prude or Slut?

Picture the scene; school is letting out.    It's a hot, barmy, unexpected and therefore much talked about random summer's day in England.  The children are all without coats, but clad in the usual black skirts or trousers and white school shirts.  It's a secondary school and a uniform is compulsory for those in Year 7 through to 11. (That's ages 11 to 16)

I pull up in my car at the pelican crossing outside this particular school as they are milling about.  Some cross the road in front of me, but my eyes are drawn to a group of girls on the pavement to my right.  They are all wearing the required black skirts, obviously with bare legs (did I mention the weather?) and I am struck by the shortness of the skirts.

Don't be daft I tell myself, thinking they probably just 'look' short because I'm all old and unfashionable and couldn't get away with that length anymore.  But then I notice that I can see one of the girl's bum cheek peeking out from underneath her skirt.

Yes.  You read that correctly.  Bum cheek.

Go on.  Now tell me I'm a prude.  It's not just that I could see this that bothered me.  It's that every person passing, whether walking or driving, could see this; and not everyone out there is 'safe'.  What do I mean?  You know exactly what I mean.  Let's not be naive.  You can argue all you like that it shouldn't matter what you dress your children in.  Yes, since they are under 16 these are still children we are talking about.  But it does matter.  It really does.

In the 80s the rule was knee-length.  If you could see all your knees the skirt was too short and you got a letter to send home.  I wonder what, if anything, this school did about this particular skirt.  On the evidence of the skirts surrounding her, not one more than about an inch lower in length, probably not a lot.

If there are any teachers out there reading this; I'd be interested to know your thoughts.  What are the rules these days?  If any?  Do you agree with them?  Or not?  Why?

It seems that everyone wants me to know what, if any underwear they are wearing this summer, doesn't it.  Can you avoid VPL this summer?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Out of the mouths of babes (June 2012)

This weekend my daughter, 6 years old, was watching the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the television.  The Queen hadn't yet arrived and my daughter was getting a little frustrated and bored watching all the other Royals arrive and take what seemed like forever to get on the boat. 

"Where's the Queen, mummy?"  she asked
"I'm not sure darling" I responded.
"I know." She said.  "She's late".
"I don't think she is love."
"Yes she is, mummy.  She probably needed a poo poo."

Children are so brilliantly literal and marvellously insightful!  If you have a blog, post your story and link it up here using the instructions below.  If not; simply sit back, grab a cuppa, and enjoy the growing list of posts as they appear in the list below.

Here's May's edition for your giggling pleasure.


1.  Grab my button and paste it at the top or bottom of your post, to enable readers to get back to the main list.  (Please let me know if the code doesn't work.  It's the first time I've tried this!)


2.  Publish your post on your blog.
3.  Add your post URL to the Linky tool below and watch your post appear as if by magic to the main list.

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