It was quite a big ask to travel down to Britmums Live in London from Manchester 2 weeks after surgery, and I make no apologies for the fact that the end of this post will be linktacular. I genuinely could not have gone to Britmums Live 2015 without a heck of a lot of help from a lot of people.
I bought my ticket way back in July, and apparently I forgot about about that, because I bought another one in November. I only discovered this a month ago, but luckily was able to sell one on in time, and therefore had cash for my expenses without dipping into the houshold pot. It was a great start.
Britmums Live started with an ice breaker and sadly it was far too active for me, so I had to sit it out with the most gorgeous man in the room - 3 week old Red Rose Baby
And everyone else got to completely wrap up someone they barely knew with toilet roll! It was actually hilarious....
Going On An Adventure's Colette shows us how it's done - hokey kokey style. Flamenco, and then pretend you're an aeroplane.... and why didn't we all run away while they stood and waited to be judged!? Missed opportunities....if a little obvious.
Out into the brand den and I genuinely loved the Sew And Sew room, yet I didn't lift a needle. I was happy enough walking through and taking in the atmosphere. I tried to break a record, I spotted Parragon's typo (did anyone else spot that?), and I ate ice cream made from cashew nuts and frozen berries.
I think with this being my second time here, and I've been blogging a bit longer, I'm braver and prepared to talk to the brands more confidently. Last year I would stand around and not catch anyone's attention and then wander off. This year I chatted to everybody! Or maybe it's just my painkillers....
I did definitely talk pants with Carol Smillie, and it was brilliant. Genuinely a fascinating chat and she was smily, and she was down-to-Earth and lovely. And she's 53. I wish I'd looked that good at 33. Her Diary Doll pants are pretty excellent. A bit pricey, but I definitely think it's worth getting a couple of pairs. Trust me - you can barely feel it any difference to your regular knickers....I was really hoping for a pair in the goodie bag!
I took a great photo of Emily A Mummy Too. She says I shouldn't show anyone, but no-one can be embarrassed by this photo...and if she asks, no-one's looking....right?
I did go to sessions, and I did learn stuff. I met some amazing people who really I was in awe of, and was asked "are you any good?" by the fabulous Post 40 Bloggers founder HerMelness (I declined to answer - in case you were wondering). We had a celebrity keynote from Caprice, and then the Bloggers Keynote. I tried hard not to cry at the posts that came before mine. I'd read them all, twice, just to get to know them.
I knew I was 7th. I'd learnt the order.
I worried for Helen, who was reading before me. She went into the loo on her own and I knew how scared I was, so I had to go and check if she okay, and I cursed that bloody squeaky door. She was about as okay as I was...
And then it was my turn. Pippa came with me to the stage and I did not look up. I stared at the lecturn and I realised I had to speak. I've spoken to big audiences before, but not when the subject was my own. I thought I couldn't do it. My mouth didn't move, and everything was in slow motion and when it finally came the first line felt like I spat it out, and then my voice just didn't work properly. I croaked my way through so much of it before I reached a part that was harder for me, and my voice cracked, and I paused and I knew I'd done that hard bit, so I carried on, and I did it. And I did look up at the end, and I saw everybody stand up, and I knew I did okay. I did her proud.
I wrote Dear Elspeth because I didn't want anyone to blame Elspeth for what happened, I didn't want them to gossip about her and be negative about her. I wanted to protect her from that because it wouldn't have been fair. I never for one minute thought it would elicit the response it did. I've had far too many people contact me and tell me they have sought help, and their family members have sought help, after reading it. Every single one made writing it worthwhile.
And then I felt awful because Leta had to go on stage already upset, and she was on her own up there. I knew her post was going to be hard for her, and I'm sorry.
The post that stands out most for me was Twinkle Twinkle from 23 Week Socks. I cried so much reading it, I was delighted I did not have to go on stage after Louise.
In the photo below I'm the purple faced one in the middle. I didn't realise it at the time, but the paracetamol I'd been prescribed was to keep my temperature down, so I hadn't worried about not taking it - obvious with kids, not so obvious with adults - doh! The people with me are the people who made Britmums Live possible for me. They were the ones sitting at my table as I waited to go on stage. They organised for the gorgeous sunflowers from the Lindemans Wines stand to be on my table when I came off stage. . .Those people looked after me. They made sure I always had a drink, I ate my dinner, I didn't pick anything up or carry anything, and they never left me on my own.
Thank you to Sim, who couldn't be at Britmums Live, but she sat in my kitchen and listened to me practice reading my post aloud until I could get all the way through without crying, or going to make another brew, or nipping to check if someone was at the door.
Thank you to Mary, and Pippa, who made my wish of "please can a magic fairy just organise everything and tell me what time I should leave my house and who I should pay?" into a reality (I even got picked up from my house).
Thank you to Jen, and everyone else who at any point dragged my case or carried my bags for me, picked up everything I ever dropped, saved me a seat, and ignored me when I fell asleep at inappropriate times (I actually really wanted to see that session).
Thank you to Colette for sharing a hotel room with me and calmly pausing the conversation whenever I was sick, then carrying on as if nothing exciting happened, and for going out at midnight with Kel while I was sleeping, to buy me some plain crisps and clear pop so that I could get enough lining into my tummy to take my tablets when I woke.
Thank you again to Pippa, who despite having a 3 1/2 week old baby came up on stage and held me in a solid bear hug the entire time, and didn't complain when I squeezed her hand in a vice grip, and also had the somewhat important job of reading for me if I couldn't finish.
Thank you to everyone who was there, everyone who wasn't. Everyone who watched and everyone who read. Everyone who nominated. Britmums Live 2015 was an amazing experience, but I'm sure you will all understand when I say that I wish it had all been a dream.
See you next year.