The evening before Cybermummy I took a train for the first time in years to London Paddington. I approached the ticket office at my journeys starting point like an eager puppy, my huge bag swinging heavily against my legs as I heaved it off my shoulder. "I want to go to London" I said breathlessly to the man selling tickets from behind the glass partition. He was wearing what can only be described as an expression of monumental boredom, although I did also - I'm sure - see a slight look of alarm pass quickly over his face as he considered this shining eyed, slightly over excited woman in front of him. As he handed me my ticket however, accompanied by a gentle explanation as to how it also allowed me to travel on the tube, his features quickly settled back into their obviously familiar arrangement of weary indifference. He had, it seemed, come to the reassuring decision that I was merely a harmless imbecile as opposed to an unhinged, dirty great bag carrying, maximum security escapee.
I got to Paddington, took the tube to Waterloo - hot air blasting up in my face from the tunnels like a hairdryer - and from there made my way on foot down to the South Bank. The atmosphere was like a carnival. The evening sun was still shining, the enormous ferris wheel that is the London Eye loomed excitingly up ahead and there were happy, relaxed looking people outside all the cafes and pubs celebrating the end of the working week. I walked across the road towards the little food market where an old friend of mine has a stall selling fairly traded olive oil and spices. All the smells mingled into one delicious warm spicy bready aroma as I tried to count how many different languages I could hear being spoken. Somewhere in the distance a small brass band was playing some New Orleans style jazz music and it all just seemed to me in that moment to be as perfect a city scene as one could ever hope for. I hung about the market for a while then helped my friend to pack up her stall. As the sun began to dim we made our way slowly back to the to the small flat that she shares with her Palestinian husband and baby son.
The next morning I was awake before the baby. Butterflies flitting in my stomach, I showered, dressed and made a cup of tea. My friend got up bleary eyed to see me off and I hugged her tightly goodbye before heading out in the morning sun to the tube station and hopping on the eastward bound Piccadilly line to Earls Court. A short walk from there to the Ibis Hotel and that was it. No going back, no running for the hills. Cybermummy had officially begun.
It was all very much in stark contrast to the slightly bohemian, international feel of the South Bank the night before. Every credit to the women who had obviously worked incredibly hard to bring it all together - it was without doubt extremely well organised. It looked smart and professional, everything happened when it was supposed to, the food was good and the time-table was clear. The freebies were plentiful and the PR's and company representatives were out in force. It was..... slick.
I however am not slick and if I'm honest the blatant commercialism bothered me. I don't have a view on what anyone else chooses to do on their own blog - it is their space and their business and we are all free to take from blogging what we will - but I personally don't like having people try to sell me shit, and I'm not interested in being used to sell shit for other people either. There are obviously many cynical company big-wigs out there who feel that mummy bloggers are a prime market for milking - there was even a babies bottle in our swag bags - and for me that side of things just left a slightly off taste in the mouth.
I have also never been required to 'network' before. Turns out I'm shit at it. I met some lovely lovely people but they were mostly people with whom I had made a virtual connection anyway and so already felt some affinity with. My poor blue 'business' cards were left sadly redundant as I discovered that I couldn't quite bring myself to press them onto people I had had no contact whatsoever with other than a two minute schmooze over a cupcake. I think in Twitter speak that that could possibly be referred to as a #putyourselfouttherefail. Ah well. I was clearly never destined to be an internet rock star anyway.
No. The highlight of the day by far in my opinion was listening to blog posts being read out by the authors themselves. There is something incredibly moving about hearing a blogger read their own post in their own way, using their own emphasis, their own meaningful pauses, and their own real emotion. Even posts that I had read before in their published form and so recognised straight away came strangely alive for me when I heard them spoken out loud by the women who had written them. It gave a real glimpse into the wealth of talent that is out there in the blogosphere and it was at this part in the proceedings more than any other that I felt a genuine kinship with my fellow women bloggers. Real womens lives and real womens experiences were laid bare with such beauty and raw honesty and I was struck by the strength of my response. We have so much more in common than we often think.
What else? Well.. I also discovered that I am a veritable platinum mine of information when it comes to the all important subject of the lyrics of pop songs released from the nineteen eighties onwards. My fellow pub quizzers were gasping in what I imagined was, ahem... sheer admiration at my recognition of the poetic talents of the likes of JLS, Luther Vandross and Kylie. Um... I also won a prize. Oh, and there is now a picture of my (clothed) arse on Tara Cains blog for anyone who's interested.
Bang go the last vestiges of my anonymity ;-)