A catch up

Beautiful Snowdonia. We will be here for New Year. Not climbing up mountains though, obviously. Just drinking wine.

Hello y’all. I have been very neglectful of my blog of late. I have spent the last few months Doing Too Much, culminating in a mini nervous breakdown, involving me throwing stickle bricks across the room in front of the kids. It was then I decided to Stop for a while. I did no Christmas craft, I made no presents, no hand made decorations. And Christmas was actually relatively stress free as a result. I realised that I was trying desperately to live up to some ideal, an ideal that I often see on other blogs, and one that makes me feel both envious and inadequate. But I have the start of my new Masters degree looming, and I am going to have to be more focused about how I use my time, and about how I use my blog.

I have missed writing, missed the thrill of trying to cohere an argument and write about it in an engaging way. I have taken the very unusual step of not writing unless I have something interesting to say. This is completely contrary to real life. The spoken word is hard to edit, but there is nothing like seeing the written word on the screen in front of you to show you how boring you can be!

Christmas was lovely and relaxed, the rampant consumerism dampened down on all fronts thankfully. I, a resolute atheist, read the kids the nativity story. I made it clear that some people believe in it, but for some people it is just a story. People who believe in it are called Christians “Yes, I’m one of them,” Betty piped up “I’m a Christian”. There have been several difficult conversation with her recently, including one at 6am on a Sunday morning when she woke up from a bad dream where I had died. Cue discussion of death; what happens when you die? Are you going to die mummy? I’ll prepared at any time of day, let alone so early, for such philosophical discussions, I blundered my way through different options such as heaven, star dust and reincarnation, ending with “no one really knows what happens when we die” which seemed a little unsatisfactory for her. All I could think was “Don’t promise her not to die!”.

Anyway, I just thought I would touch base, and tend to my blog a little. Hope you all had a marvellous Christmas. We are off to North Wales for the New Year to see some lovely friends. It will no doubt be wet and cold, but the feeling freedom from being halfway up a mountain, yet close to the sea, instead of in the middle of landlocked suburbia, more than makes up for it.

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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Why blog?

20121115-101952 PM.jpg

‘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

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.


I’m Dilly Tante and this is my new blog. I should probably start by admitting that until now I thought most blogs were pointless, narcissistic and attention seeking, and the craft ones that I occasionally stumble on to, so clearly crying out for book deals that have become popular recently, with their pristine handmade homes, where everything has a place, and crafts are artfully arranged on beautifully dressed tables. Well, I’ve decided I am actually narcissistic and attention seeking, and my rambles are often pointless, so I may as well follow the crowd. However, on this blog you will be lucky if I am dressed let alone my table. I will avoid photographing my home as much as possible, especially when even my iPhone camera is now so full of mega pixels that it shows up every speck of dirt and dust. In fact there will be no photos of:

Tasteful picnics in my garden (you’d have to get past the plastic tat first)

Mugs of freshly sharpened pencils

Flower arrangements

Themed areas of my house

Pretty lined wicker baskets with ‘treasures’ in them

My children looking wholesome on a hike in nearby hills (there maybe pictures of my children, they are more likely to look like urchins than wholesome, and they don’t hike.)

So, about my reticence towards blogging, I don’t consider myself to be a Luddite, just discerning about my use of social media and putting myself out there (I still can’t bring myself to use Face Book or Twitter). But I have embraced the fact that I am actually an attention whore as much as the next blogger, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In fact I nearly called the blog Attention Whore as it made my friend laugh when I described myself that way, but decided I’d like my mum to be able to read it and talk about it, and she is a 50 odd year old lesbian, who dresses like a 19 year old art student, but can’t say the word ‘period’ (“Are you on your ‘Women’s Week’?” she will occasionally whisper to me).

So, I plumped for Dilly Tante (dilettante geddit?) as it describes me quite well. I’m interested in lots of things, but do none of them to the high standards I set myself! I suffer from complete life envy, encompassing career envy (why didn’t I train to be a journalist/lawyer/psychotherapist? ),  house envy (what did these people with 5-bedroomed Georgian town houses do to get them?) and hobby envy (yoga, gardening, cake decorating, etc.). My first (well, current) love is crochet, closely followed by generally making things (that I am usually woefully under skilled at!), reading, Mumsnetting, psychology, feminism, breastfeeding, The West Wing, the list goes on. And this blog is going to be a little bit of everything, but mostly to showcase things that I’ve made in the hope that people will tell me how incredibly talented I am, and maybe like to buy things from me.

I am also mother to two daughters, who for reasons of anonymity, shall henceforth be known as Betty (4) and Iris (10 months)  (ha ha! I can finally use the names that DH vetoed for my fantasy children, who are of course impeccably behaved!). Obviously parenting is a big part of my life, and while I am a <chokes out the word> mummy, I don’t want to be one of those, you know, ‘mummy bloggers’, or cyber mums, is that what the buzz word is? I would like to share things that I have learnt and done (well or not), to garner sympathy, and to say things lots of us are thinking but don’t think anyone else is. But I don’t want to be smug about my parenting. I have no distillable ethos, except perhaps Benign Neglect, but not in a competitively relaxed parent way (“Oh, I’m so relaxed that I wouldn’t dream of caring whether or not Juniper goes to school or not.”), more in a “Darling, I’m just trying to do some Very Important Work on the computer. Why don’t you ask Grandma if you can play with glitter at her house?” kind of way. It works for us. My children are both delightful (and wearing), I’m not sure if that is my fabulous parenting skills or just the way they are. Nature or nurture? Either way I get the credit!

So, this will be about things I make and like, with a little bit of parenting, feminism, and other streams of consciousness. I fully expect my only readers to be my mum and my sister. If you are reading this and aren’t related to me, then welcome, I hope you find something you like here.