Mumsnet BlogFest was bought to you by…

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I’ve never written a sponsored post, and this isn’t one (though I am not adverse to them if someone wants to send me something nice…) but this is a post mentioning the sponsors from Mumsnet BlogFest. Yes, I am still going on about the awesomeness that was Mumsnet BlogFest. One of the reasons it was so awesome is that it was a bargain. Earlybird tickets were £50, going up to £75 nearer the event. For that amount you got a fantastic view from Millbank Tower, cakes and pastries from Beverly Hills Bakery, Innocent Smoothies, fab buffet lunch. You had your Caitlin Morans, your Liz Jones’s, your Tim Dowlings. You had lots of prosecco courtesy of Pizza Express, and cheese from the fantastically named British Cheese British. Anyway, without the sponsors of BlogFest the event would have been prohibitively expensive. So, I thought as courtesy I would write a short post giving them a quick mention, but rather than a sycophantic “I love you Portland Hospital” post (the chances of me ever coming into contact with the Portland again are very slim) I thought I would just post a quick fun fact on each of the companies. Wooo yeah, it’s rocking chez Dilly!

Google
Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t Be Evil”

Skoda
Skoda is one of the four oldest companies that started producing cars

Portland Hospital
Each one of the Spice Girls had their babies at the Portland. The Portland also gave me a couple of Portly Pandas for the girls, which they loved.

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Boden
Boden, the sartorial church of the middle class mummy, initially launched with eight menswear products

Nintendo
Before becoming a massive consumer electronics company Nintendo ran Japanese Love Hotels. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like

The Times
The Times was founded in 1785 and is the originator of Times Roman typeface

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Don’t say I don’t never teach you nuffin.

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On the radio whoa oh oh

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I have long harboured an ambition to wield the sort of power and influence that makes the BBC Radio 4 researchers pick up the phone and ask for my learned opinion on a matter. I always knew this to be unlikely since my areas of expertise are limited to crochet, Mumsnetting and holding simultaneous conversations with my children while speaking to anyone else.

Well today my ambition was realised. In a manner of speaking. Last Saturday, the Saturday Live show on Radio 4 were talking about town mysteries and yarn bombing came up. Never one to shy away from a bit of self promotion I tweeted them a link to my blog. A few days later I received an email from a researcher asking if I’d mind being called to speak on the show. After gauging the angle they were taking I agreed. The lovely Rev Coles and JP Devlin aren’t the type to turn all John Humphries on innocent callers.

The only snag in the plan was that I was supposed to be volunteering at the NCT Nearly New Sale today. After rather sheepishly explaining the situation to the bemused organiser Andy I excused myself about 10 minutes before the anticipated phonecall and had to secrete myself in a quiet space, outside in the end due to phone signal issues.

On cue I received a phonecall from JP who was delightfully reassuring. Then came my big moment, my national radio debut. They asked why I yarn bomb. I said to make people smile and I think I managed to get something in there about subverting feminine stereotypes. They asked who my posse were. I said we were all mums, which wasn’t quite the answer I wanted to give as it makes us sound a bit mumsy and frankly unrenegade. But the reality is that we met through our children and that is how we primarily define ourselves at the moment. Yarn bombing helps us reclaim a bit of our own identity back. Damn, I should have said that!

Anyway, I think it went well. It was mere minutes long. It’s on BBC iPlayer, at around 9.50, which I think is 50 mins into the show. I daren’t listen to it myself so you’ll have to tell me how I sound? Do I sound nasally? I’ve been told I sound very Home Counties, though 8 years in the West Country might have knocked the edge off that. Anyway, listen to me on the cutting edge of the creative zeitgeist:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/radio

(Above image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Why do you blog? A blog hop!

I'm kind of a big deal on my blog
Poster by ParadaCreations on Etsy

I had a great response from my mildly soul searching blog post last week exploring why I blog. I posed a bunch of questions on a thread on Mumsnet and got some interesting responses, both on that thread, and on posts other bloggers wrote in response.

When I started the thread I was feeling fed up and defensive about my blogging habit, and questioning the value and motives behind it. At first I just read people’s responses without really thinking about my own. Posts at Low Impact Parenting, Pressies by Pebbles and MumToTeens made me realise that it is not all about the value that the reader or the world in general gets (although that is great) but that bloggers themselves get an enormous amount from it, aside for the self validation and attention that I always assume to be the bloggers motive (they’re mine after all!). By the time I wrote my own post I was back in the game with a more circumspect attitude to my critics (both direct and indirect).

Such was the response, I thought I might have a go at a blog hop, so other people can share their feelings. I’ve never done one before and the process does not come to WordPress naturally, so bear with me and let’s see how this goes.

For reference, these were the questions I posed on Mumsnet, but feel free to write in whatever way you want:
Why do you blog?
What do you get from it?
Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?
Why should people be interested in what you write?
Do you care if they are not?
If you blog just for you why do it publically?
What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?
Do you feel defensive about blogging?

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All about Eve

Yesterday the General Synod of the Anglican Church voted against ordaining women as Bishops. In actual fact a large majority of the Synod voted FOR the motion, but a two thirds majority across all three of the Houses is required, and the House of Laity was 6 votes short to pass the motion.

I struggle to articulate my thoughts on this matter. I am a fervent atheist so you might question why I should care about an institution I regard as outmoded and full of fantasy. Well, discrimination in an arena angers me. I don’t want to play cricket either, but I want our female cricket team to get equal treatment to their male counterparts. I have not seen any coherent arguments against the notion of women as Bishops, and I can’t think of any argument that I would accept on the matter. I cannot understand how the Church can defend this decision.

I wanted to weep yesterday listening to Alison Ruoff on Radio 4 as she tried to defend the notion that women should be subservient to the authority of men: “it’s that way in the home too” she said. Not in my home it’s not. In fact many of the opponents to the motion were women, bought up with the indoctrination that their wants and needs come after those of men.

For too long in the eyes of the Church, and consequently in the rest of society (let’s not forget the CofE hasn’t always been the irrelevance it is now) women have been treated as less than equal, bearing the sins of Eve who is seen as the sole reason for the banishment from the Garden of Eden, conveniently forgetting Adam ate the apple too.

The Church spent a long few days praying to God to guide them and give them wisdom in their choices. Well, if this is the outcome God led them to then they can keep their God. And supporters of Anglican reform know this is how many people will feel and fear this will lead to the discrediting and demise of its position as a National Church. Women are not a minority group. We make up just over half the population. Businesses today know they have to offer benefits and career profession prospects to attract high calibre women to make up their workforce and make them more relevant today. The Church of England, essentially a business, working to protect its assets, its power, and its market share, has failed to modernise, held to ransom by anachronistic shareholders.

The members of the Church who were against the ordination of women as Bishops are today rejoicing, proclaiming that they have prevented a schism in the Church. Those members who threw their toys out the the pram and threatened to run off and join the Catholic Church may now stay. But who knows what amazing women, the future of the Church, will leave or stay away because of this decision.

I hope all those who remain in the Church that hold sensible and modern views voice their dissatisfaction at this decision. Anyone who continues to blithely worship within a such an institutionally misogynistic organisation without fighting for the equality of women is themselves participating in and propagating the notion that women are inferior. And that notion filters down, so that consequently all those women who are the backbone of the Church without pretensions to ordination are by association inferior. The Church of England is an anachronism and and irrelevance and it needs to reform if it is to survive in this increasingly secular country.

Yarn Bombing Workshop, Cheltenham

Cheltenham horse yarn bomb
Fancy a go at this? Not the horse – the yarn bombing!

I have been asked to run a yarn bombing workshop at the local art gallery and museum Christmas Market. In terms of a workshop there’s not much to teach, it’s a case of make something then put it out there! So, it’s going to be all about the atmosphere, inspiration and having fun as a group. No pressure on me right?!

Anyway, if you are in the area and interested then you should come along. It’s on Sunday 2nd December, 11-3 at the Garden Gallery, Montpellier Gardens. It’s a bargainous £5 which you pay on the day. If you want to come you need to be able to have basic crochet or knitting skills (please indicate your preference so I can make sure I have enough kit). Send your details to liha.okunniwa@cheltenham.gov.uk.

Do come, it’s going to be so much fun!

Yarn bombing workshop flyer

Cheltenham Pop Up Shop of Loveliness

Yarnit Bath Road Pop Up craft shop
Yarnit Bath Road Pop Up Craft and Vintage Shop
Knitting and nattering
Knitting and nattering

I’ve spent a lovely morning at my fortnightly Friday morning knitting group. But instead of being at Kristina’s gorgeous house it was at her pop up shop which she is running with her partner in yarn Julie. These ladies have impeccable taste and a compulsion for buying vintage goods. They are also fantastic crafters, and they fund both these habits by selling their wares at craft fairs and other stalls under the name Yarnit.

They are spending a week at the old fruit and veg market along the Bath Road in Cheltenham and will be there till end of Tuesday (not Sunday).

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They are selling all sorts of vintage and retro kitchenalia ( don’t call it bric-a-brac!), fabric, haberdashery, and homemade gifts and Christmas decorations.

Pretty plates, homemade badges and hair clips
Pretty plates, homemade badges and hair clips
Yarn and stuff...
Yarn and stuff…
Gorgeous Arcopal china tea cups
Gorgeous Arcopal china tea cups

If you pop along tell them Dilly sent you. They will probably look at you blankly at that point as neither of them are social media addicts like you and me, but tell them it’s the one what yarn bombs and who has two delightful daughters and they will know who you mean. If enough of you go and buy stuff they may give me a discount on the blue flower jug I was eyeing up!

Why blog?

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‘I love you blogs and tea’ by jenniferramos at Etsy

So this Liz Jones article in the Daily Mail is still bothering me. I know, I know, it shouldn’t. It’s the Daily Mail, mysogynistic, racist, homophobic rag for the aspirational lower classes. But after reading the article I then started reading the comments section. Big mistake. The Daily Mail comments section is like a black hole for all hope and optimism. If Liz Jones is a Dementor then the Daily Mail website is Azkaban. The commenters competing over who can vituperate the loudest. Their targets: mothers, Mumsnetters and bloggers. Now these three things happen to be major parts of my identity at the moment, so to see them systematically abused by people who have very little knowledge of any of them is a teeny bit soul destroying.

Now, most of you will know that my love Mumsnet is both strong and enduring. I can and have posted at length about the good that comes out of that website. I will not hear a bad word said against it. That’s not to say there are no bad words to say, I know all its faults. But like an errant family member, or a football team in a slump, I acknowledge and accept its faults but continue to love and support it anyway.

It’s easier to shake off the criticism levied against me as a mother. I have pushed a human being out of a hole in my body the size of egg cup. I have sucked snot out of the nose of stuffed up baby. I have paused during breastfeeding to vomit from the pain of a migraine, then resumed breastfeeding. I have in turn been vomited on and my first instinct is always to check my child is ok. I am bringing up two delightful children to become productive and charming members of society who will eventually be funding the pensions of the ignorant Daily Mail reading twats who loathe children so much. If you haven’t done at least one of those things then I am afraid you can fuck off and keep your women-hating thoughts to yourself.

But, and this is the crux of this post (yes, three paragraphs and we are not even at the crux yet – if the Internet is shortening people’s attention spans it’s not because of me), blogging is a harder hobby to defend. It is by nature an attention-seeking activity, and often rather ego centric. While undoubtably there are blogs out their with obvious objectives, trying to change the world, highlight discrimination and poor treatments, there is a rather large section of blogs which mainly detail people’s own lives and opinions, with the inherent assumption that other people should want to read about this. This set me thinking about why people blog, is it a pointless hobby? Do the benefits outweighs the negatives? And personally, should I continue to blog, labouring under the assumption that I am interesting enough that people will want to listen to what I have to say. I posted some questions on the Mumsnet Blog Network (where else?) and people have answered or blogged about it, so I should really answer them myself too. Here goes:

Why do you blog?
Well, it started out as a way to show off stuff I had made, but then I found I quite enjoyed the writing, and got complimented on it, which made me want to do it some more.
What do you get from it?
Well, attention and compliments, which I love. An outlet for creativity; I really enjoy the creation of my posts, thinking them through and trying to come to a resolution. I have also made lovely friends through my blog.
Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?
Yes and yes. Look, people are always complaining that the news is so depressing. All these trivial parts of the blogosphere are are the bits that remind us that the world is still going on as usual. And things that seem trivial to other people may not be trivial to the people involved. This is especially true when it comes to having children. The crises I had over what to feed my children, how to get them to take a bottle, and have I damaged my baby by watching Sex and The City while breastfeeding, all seem trite now, but at the time they were huge, and they mattered. Just like it mattered when I was 14 and trying to decipher what it meant when Chris Davies borrowed my pen in English. One woman’s triviality is another women’s tragedy. But you know what blogs give us, they allow us insight into what other people are thinking; all those ephemeral thoughts and overblown worries that we have, other people have too. So yes, triviality is ok. Especially if it’s funny like this one.
Why should people be interested in what you write?
Well because I often have some well articulated thoughts among the diatribe. I think about the topic I am writing about and try to find new angles. I make stuff and often it’s nice, I like to give people ideas (that I have usually stolen from someone else). I’m occasionally funny, plus I also think I am mostly quite positive on my blog, which is funny as I am a pessimist in real life. But there is nothing like rereading what you’ve written to bore the pants of you, which means that it is probably boring other people. I want people to come back to my blog, and I know they won’t if it is full of whining, because I don’t want to read other people’s whining myself. That isn’t to say that all blogs must be positive, some aren’t for good reasons, but their mission is about sharing and empathising, and mine mission isn’t nearly so noble.
Do you care if they are not?
I’d be lying if I said no, but that’s less because I take it as a personal slight on my writing or me, but more a slight on what I am writing about. I’m not great when people don’t share my views and values, so I take that more personally than a lack of interest in me.
If you blog just for you why do it publically?
I don’t blog for me, or not in the way people usually mean. I get a lot from blogging, so I do it for me in that respect, but I wouldn’t get nearly as much from it if it was private.
What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?
Occasionally entertaining, and interesting to read. My blog is pretty ‘real’ compared to many craft blogs, so while I probably don’t inspire awe and aspiration, I might inspire a sense of “I could do that” which I much prefer. I think I am also making people more aware of feminist issues. And at least one person has said that they started blogging because of me, I really should ask her why.
Do you feel defensive about blogging?
I did, and still do a little. But writing this has helped me to see what I get out of blogging, plus I know other people like it because they tell me, so I am adding some value too. But there is still the niggly feeling that it is all a bit pointless and ego centric. That doesn’t make me want to stop, but it is making me stop and think about the value I am adding with each post. There is enough room out there on the Internet for everyone, so I’m wasting nothing but my own time. And as for the people belittling blogs for their mundanity and triviality from Twitter, chat forums, or the Daily Mail website, glass houses people, glass houses.

Live to blog, blog to live

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Yesterday I spent the day at Mumsnet Blogfest. I expect today there will loads of posts from various bloggers about the panels, and the cakes, and meeting lots of other bloggers, and I’m sure I’ll get some mileage out of it for a while. But today my overwhelming feeling is that of defensiveness about this blogging life I lead.

Liz Jones, journalist of the Daily Mail, and long time Mumsnet and mum hater was on the panel talking about public vs private lives. Jones has infamously spilled her guts on everything, including her marriage breakup and keeping a condom full of sperm which she planned to inseminate herself with.

Geraldine Bedell, who chaired the panel, asked Miss Jones if she ever regretted anything she had written “Yeah, all of it” she said, without a trace of humour. She described having a nervous breakdown every time she presses send on one of her articles, and how there have been times when she has engineers situations or made decisions that have resulted in chaos because she knew she would get good copy out of it. A journalist owes it to the public to put it all out there, she argued.

Predictably, Liz Jones has today written an article criticising Mumsnet bloggers for writing about parenthood and cakes, and how we are wasting our freedom of speech on topics such as knitting and chocolate. What is more, people on my beloved Mumsnet itself are also deriding bloggers and agreeing with Jones, conveniently ignoring that blogging, like Mumsnet, is just another forum for expression and socialising, built primarily around our role as mothers.

The Internet has been a democratising force for women. Before it became mainstream, the main female voices to be heard were the select few in politics and the media, and even then those voices were chosen and carefully controlled by the patriarchal constructs of government and mass media. Now anyone, even a mum feeling stuck at home with kids, can put their message out there for all to see, and can find other like minded people, regardless of geography. This is both a good and bad thing as it has been a democratising force for all, meaning that even those with views outside the social norms, views that the majority find repugnant, can find a space online to reinforce those views and create their own social norms.

Freedom of speech means we can talk about what the hell we like. Liz Jones doesn’t get to choose what we write about, and quite frankly I’d rather read about someone having their eyeball pulled out with a pencil than any of her self obsessed drivel about her horses and how everyone hates her. Liz derided Mumsnet bloggers for not doing more. Clearly she missed out on the bit about doing research at journalism school, as she didn’t have to look too far on Mumsnet to find the We Believe You campaign, the Better Miscarriage Care Campaign, or Mumsnet Woolly Hugs. All these campaigns have been massively supported by Mumsnet Bloggers.

The term ‘mummybloggers’ is a phrase used by the mainstream media to deride women having their say. Yes, some people blog about their children and family life, in doing so they share experiences with other women, and provide relief to people stuck in the often lonely world of parenting, where you are afraid to speak the truth about how you feel about this often sacred role. But for a many of us, being a mum is incidental to what we write about, but inevitably spills onto the page, so huge a part of our lives is being a parent.

It’s easy to attack Liz Jones for taking her stance on Mumsnet and mums when she is child free herself. Comments on the article accuse her of being jealous and not understanding because she doesn’t have kids. These may seem like low blows, but she is the one who brings that chip on her shoulder to the table. She is the one who talks about the ‘queasy feeling in her empty womb’, she is the one who came to Mumsnet Blogfest and then proceeded to criticise us all of the triviality of what we do. She is the one with a powerful platform, a voice with which she could do so much, yet she chooses to use it look down on people who are different from her, and to bleat on about her own self inflicted misery. If she thinks bloggers aren’t using their voices for good then she is not looking very far, and probably needs to concentrate on her own back yard first.

I think we as bloggers can learn a very powerful lesson from Liz Jones. No, not that we should be blogging about more than good housekeeping, nor that we should keep quiet about the realities of motherhood. I think we should look to Liz as a sign of what we can become if we share too much of our lives on our blogs. Liz Jones has alienated her neighbours, and systematically written nearly every person out of her life, driven them away by her insistence on sharing every detail and every thought she has. She appeared yesterday to be a sad shell of a woman, by her own admission a nastier, unemotional person, who relishes the disasters in her life as opportunities for good copy. We should consider that when we blog about our children and our husbands, and ourselves. While it is good to share, it’s also good to edit, so you don’t end up writing your friends and family out of your life.

Trains, planes and automobiles

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Well, I am starting my pilgrimage to Mumsnet Blogfest, which is taking in a bus ride, a train ride, a car ride, overnight pitstop at hotel Mummy Dilly (mints on pillow not included. In fact I will be lucky if there is any food at all. I have bought my own granola and banana for breakfast. I’m a creature of habit.) Then, if Mummy Dilly isn’t massively offended by the above, another car ride, then a train to Victoria. All this to travel a mere 200 miles or so.

Anyway, I’m super excited. I have with me 2 outfits which I am going to consult with Mummy Dilly on. Despite having herself the sartorial habits of a teenage art student, albeit with more expensive taste, she is a pretty good judge of these things.

I’m pretty nervous. I’m going to be hopefully meeting a whole bunch of Internet sprite friends. I my head it is a quiet gathering of just those I want to meet, however I not even sure of the numbers of people coming.

Information that I have been sent tells me that as well as pastries and Innocent Smoothies in the morning and a hot buffet lunch, in both the morning and afternoon breaks there will be cakes from the Beverley Hills Bakery. So all I can think of is food now, sod the amazing speakers, like Caitlin Moran and Miriam Gonzales Durantez.

The day finishes with wine and cheese. Note to self: don’t drink too much wine, it makes you an exaggerated version of yourself causing you to speak even more and even faster than normal.

So, expect lots of blogging about the conference, probably peppered with annoying in jokes for those who were there, to make those who weren’t insanely jealous (or think “Thank god I missed that bunch of twats…”).

There is also a competition involving the best post about one of the conference sponsors, so yep, expect one of those coming your way. Hey, a girl’s gotta get it where she can.

So, to all those in the cool crowd see you tomorrow. The rest of you losers will just have to read about it.

I’m reblogging this (which I have never done before, and never been quite sure of the point) mainly because it says lovely things about me (just call me Doogie Howser), but also because also because the author is an awesome writer, and because she is promoting one of my favourite topics – the power of Mumsnet. Enjoy!

Wine Can't Cure Back Pain

I have been a ‘Mumsnetter‘ for many years. There. I have said it aloud. I don’t normally advertise it by shouting from the rooftops but there are probably certain behaviours that might give it away. You will find me charging across the busy supermarket to retrieve the BOGOF Fruitshoots that R has put in the trolley, I was an avid breastfeeder and yes I would get my norks out in public to feed my baby (and, shock horror! toddler), and no I wouldn’t cover myself in a huge shroud to hide it, I am proud of being a woman and a supporter of girls being girls not sexualised mini-adults. Now I suspect that those traits along with my other ‘mumsnet outing’ traits were always there and that is why I am a mumsnetter, although to some extent I probably have a little more confidence to voice some of my longstanding…

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