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I just write. That is all.

28 Jun

Image: "Crazy writer" courtesy of

So last Saturday myself and all my fellow cyber-speed-daters finally got to reveal ourselves at the Cybermummy blogging event at The Brewery in London. It was hugely anticipated, deliberated over and discussed, and in the end a bit, well, disappointing.

That’s a pretty miserly thing to say considering all the work and effort that went into it. And I did meet some really lovely people, people I’d been waiting ages to meet, and (with a few exceptions) we threw around the same innane sarcasms and guffawed plentifully just as we do online. But unlike most other bloggers that found it all really overwhelming, for me it fell, well, just a wee bit flat.

I’m not sure what I’d expected. I hadn’t gone to learn anything; I’d gone to have a good time, to let my hair down after a shitty few months. To connect with like minded people and rip it up a bit. And of course my disappointment wasn’t helped by the fact that the bar didn’t open until the evening, presumably lest a bunch of overly-excited, fun-starved mums got voraciously drunk and proceeded to run about playing naked knock down ginger with “I love Cybermummy” branding pinned to their droopy bosoms. But it was more than a need for toxic sustenance that dulled the edges for me. I just couldn’t help but feel that I’d fallen asleep on the train and woken up at a work event circa 1995.

You see, the thing is, I’m not a struggling novelist or an ex-journalist, I’m not looking for a new career, and I don’t have a passion for cooking/baking/photography that is worth sharing. I just love writing. I love the craft of it, I love the emotion and the expression and the language. I love the discussions and the debate and the formulating an opinion on something. I just love it for its own sake, not as a commercial venture or a chance to bag a free packet of babywipes. So with the exception of a few workshops (blogging for charity, keynote speeches) I just didn’t really find ME there.

One of the best posts I’ve read so far about Cybermummy is by Josie at Sleep is for the Weak. She absolutely hits the nail on the head about the ability of writing to transform, not only the writer and their outlook on life, but the kind of contribution they can make.  And in this respect, noone could give a crap whether your RSS feed or your linking strategy are best optimised for Google.

“I found myself wishing for a conference focused more on developing a confident voice and learning how to use it, more of the wonderful stories that INSPIRE blogging, rather than brands to write about. I would liked to have seen a greater focus on individuality in blogs, I would have liked more speakers that inspired bravery and creativity in blogging. I would have liked more about real life and how blogging enhances and empowers rather than how to make your life and writing ‘fit’ blogging.”

I think the ladies behind the scenes did a remarkably good job all things considered,  I just think they might have short changed some of us by a few bob. Not difficult when we don’t even really understand ourselves why we do it.  One thing’s for sure, there’s naff all money in it for the most of us, so it’s got to be about some kind of innate passion, compulsion or downright lunacy.

Blogging in the Dark

21 Jun

Blogging is a bit like Dating in the Dark. You do quite a bit of anonymous flirting on twitter, make a few risque comments to make yourself stand out , act a lot more confident and easy-going than you really are.  You choose which other bloggers you like the best based on banter and their 20 character bio, make snap decisions about those don’t light your fire because they don’t *phnar phnar* at your lewd jokes, or join in with the “is it too early to have wine?” banter (or use too many exlamation marks in their tweets of course.)

Which makes next weekend’s Cybermummy a bit  like the big reveal. The moment the lights come on and you get to see who you’ve been cyber-snogging for the past 6 months.  It’s really intriguing and scary all at the same time.  Will I like the same people I think I like? Will people find me as sensitive, sharp, sassy as my Milk persona? (my careful emarketing strategy has worked hasn’t it?)  Or will I be a big fat disappointment? A squat, courdroy- wearing, egg- sandwich-munching brunette, to their imagined willowy, classic-champagne-cocktail-sipping, poached-salmon-with-dill munching, tousled blonde.  Will anyone even like me?

I’m sure I’ll get myself packaged up okay. Wipe the snot trails off my shoulders in time. (If I even make it out of the house alive that is.) I’m just not sure what might happen after those first few wines. Then again,  that doesn’t sound too much different from your average tipsy night on twitter now, does it?

exclamation smirks

3 Jun

image courtesy of

I’m a bit of a grammar nazi.  I don’t like it, it’s  a prescriptive and anal way of thinking.  I’d like to think my university days studying english language had paid off,  that I could see language as just a tool to fit a purpose,   a product constructed through its cultural usage.  Evolving, morphing, adapting.

But the truth is, I can’t.  I can still  hear both my parent’s voices in my head scolding me when I misuse an apostrophe, choose incorrectly from “more” and “less” when  expressing quantity, failing to follow Tony with I when proceeded by anything verblike.  It kind of ires me because I like the idea of the evolution of language, that the use of words or phrases should never be wholly dictated by rules and convention, but be fluid and playful. Christ, I’m a writer after all.

And my distaste is not just limited to grammatical mistakes. I can get disproportionately offended by punctuation too.  Take exclamation marks for example.   I just don’t like them. To me, at best, they should only ever be used to denote humour, and even then it feels as if I’m being told to find something funny before I’ve even made up my own mind.  A bit forced, cocky even.  I suppose they might clarify a statement’s mood – “I’m saying this as a joke, not an insult” – but then what is a smilie for? Surely they’re a lot more cute, less “in your face”.

Technically I think exclamation marks can also be used when conveying shock or suprise, the impact of something. But it always feels inappropriate to me, offensive even.  To me they are laughing marks, used with something serious it just feels like you’re belittling its gravitas, worse, taking it as one big (bad) joke.

“I’m so sorry you’ve broken your leg, it must be really frustrating!” or

“That’s dreadful, I can’t believe that someone nicked your car the day you lost your job!” or more recently for me

“I’m so sorry you’re mum died, you must be a real mess!”.

And what is it with some bloggers or commenters that seem pathologically incapable of writing without punctuating every single sentence with one?  Sometimes I wonder if it’s a kind of defense mechanism – they’re worried other people might think their writing or attitude stinks, so it’s a way of poking fun at themselves before anyone else does. Kind of like the extrovert chubby lady.

God it really is all a bit anal isn’t it? And this is all coming from someone who started her blogging journey refusing to capitalise i at the start of the sentence, thinking it was a bit quirky or something.  Bless.   Well my nazi self quickly put paid to that one thank god.

Spare a thought for those worse off

14 Feb

When I was growing up and doing my fair share of teenage wallowing, people would often say to me “Look at so and so, they’re so much worse off than you”. And yes, they were, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I invariably still felt just as down, sad, panicked about whatever my worry of the moment was, however trivial (and of course they almost always were). I just felt guilty as well.

This kind of thing is of course grossly exaggerated in the twitter-cum-bloggosphere. It’s a space for extreme dichotomies. A lot of crap gets talked about – what so and so had for dinner, how Mr X’s bunion is particularly painful tonight, why Miss Y is feeling fat and down in the dumps. Juxtaposed against this frivilous, self-indulgent chit chat are people blogging about mind-blowingly traggic events. Suicide, domestic violence, poorly children. And yet, I’m not saying this with any kind of criticism. I’ve done, and I do both regularly, and I strongly believe that both are valid.

Some people responded to my post The arrival of my beautiful boys by telling me (albeit in a roundabout kind of way) to buck my ideas up and think about those that don’t get to hold their children at the end of it all. From the pit of my stomach I can understand the cruel contrast and can see why some would find my mindless wanderings offensive. But the notion that this somehow invalidates my feelings doesn’t rub with me. Should you never discuss your hopes, fears, sadness in case it offends someone worse off? Is it always an offense to wallow in self pity unless it is objectively, rationally justified? Because there is always, and will always be, millions out there that are worse off than us. Living in sin in our comfortable third world.

It’s really a nonsense. I’m not talking about knowingly offending someone in pain or fear. I’m not talking about refusing to spare a thought for the millions out there in life-threatening situations. You know well that I give this kind of thing a lot of thought, but experiences are not validated through comparison. We don’t win the right to feel them in some kind of tit for tat emotional tug of war. They are real, raw, profound, no matter how small or large, significant or self-absorbed they might seem to someone else.

Even now, amidst all this, I still stand by that.

Walk on by

31 Jan

If you give me half a chance I’ll watch a documentary about death, illness, sadness, pain. Leave the remote out for a few minutes and I’ll sneak in a particularly harrowing Horizon episode. I’m drawn to them, which isn’t really such a great thing considering I have a propensity for low mood. But I reckon it’s life, and worth 60 mins or so of my time.

My husband is the opposite. He’d rather gauge his eyes out than watch or read anything sad. He’d gladly sit through 20 episodes of In the Night Garden, than emotionally commit to an hour of Silent Witness.

It’s true, I find the human condition fascinating. I read/watch these things because they stimulate my thoughts and remind me of what it is to be human. They feed my questioning mind. Yet it’s more than that. A sense of responsibility. If I switch over I am belittling that person’s feelings. I am walking past them begging on the street, turning up my jacket collar and hanging my head to avoid eye contact, telling myself I don’t need that depressing shit today.

I often wonder how many people read the opening lines of some of my posts, groan, click on that little red cross and go back to picking their nose and guffawing at the sneezing panda. Sometimes I feel a bit embarrassed of my ludicrous deep thinking. There she goes again, being all morose and turning everything over to deep philosophical thinking. Big fat yawn.

But the thing is, I can turn over and watch something else, buy a different newspaper, unsubscribe to a blog because I find it too depressing. But they can’t. They’re living it, breathing it, fighting it. I can turn away, switch off, zone out. I can do all those things, but I choose not to. I choose to listen because I think that each one tells a story worth listening to, and even if it doesn’t impart any particular nuggets of wisdom, or answer any new questions, it really is just a small, fleeting piece of my time.

Essence of Milk

19 Jan

So I am officially “fresh faced, fresh bodied” ahem, okay then “fresh voice of 2010” according to the British Mummy Bloggers confederation. You can see my lovely little badge over to the right – over there – yeah it’s a bit small, you’d think BMB could’ve upgraded to something a teensy bit bigger – still, I’m honoured. Thank you to those lovely (if a little stingy) peeps over at BMB ;<)

Even more than the lovely little badge, someone wrote this about me:

“Fresh, funny, well written posts that have made me laugh, cry, stew and sometimes just think. Always good, always worth a read.”

Now this I was totally made up with. It totally captures what Milk is all about – making you think. I don’t want to make you angry, but if I rile you and it makes you think about important subjects, and want to discuss them just a little bit, then that’s awesome. It’s about honesty, openness – not being afraid to voice your opinions even if you haven’t formulated a well-rounded argument yet (that’s what debate is about, no?) or you’re a bit embarrassed of them. Opinions aren’t fixed, we live and we learn, we grow as people – and we need honest and open communication to make that happen.

Plus, I spent far too much of my formative years worrying what others might think of what I really thought.

So whoever wrote this, thank you.  I think I might love you, just a little bit.


Bloggy silence

7 Jan

Addendum 8/01/010

The lovely Sunny Side up has summed up in the most beautifully articulate way why I have chosen a call for silence.

“I remember all too well the pain of watching people, oblivious as they were, outside the hospital window, chatting and laughing and flicking their hair and enjoying the sunshine…. when inside, in that stark neonatal department office, my world was rubble.”

When the worst happens in our lives, through our hardest struggles, it can be difficult to watch life going on as normal around is. So the bloggy silence is a way of me showing Lori that I have stopped for a while, that i am waiting, and listening for news.

<<A fellow mummy blogger – talented, well-respected, very much loved in the blogger community is in a terrible state. Her husband is in intensive care fighting for his life after an accident.  The prognosis is poor.

Writing my trivial, self-indulgent nonsense at this time just doesn’t feel right.

So I invite you to join me in a bloggy silence in support of dear Lori. I will not be writing again until we have news.>>



bleeding words

4 Jan

Someone I knew over 15 years ago from school contacted me today out of the blue. She wanted to share with me a blog she had been writing about her husband’s battle with cancer. Sadly she had lost him in November, and felt instinctively that I would understand “what goes into a blog”.  I immediately read a few of her posts, and in truth was absolutely floored by the dignity, affection and pride that oozes from her writing. A rare moment when your heart begins to canter and  emotion rises in torrents from your stomach. You feel utterly compelled to do something, to mark that moment, to reach out.

I’ve talked before about writing,  how emotional and personal the process is. Somehow people get that visual art, or poetry comes from the soul, but when it comes to a blog – well surely that’s just something you write in your spare time to catalogue your days with the children? It frustrates me.  Through our writing we open ourselves up to judgement, criticism, derision in the hope that someone else will “get” what we are talking about.

I can only start to realise what significance words come to have when you are using them to chart something as important, life-altering, profound as the journey of a loved one through illness.

I came across the following quotation recently which said in a few words what I had been trying to say for a while.

“There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  (Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith)

To my friend, I aim to start at the beginning of your story and read until I’m up to date. I’m sure I will laugh and cry with you along the way.

And yes, I understand.

Addendum: My friend has come back to me to say she is happy for me to carry her blog here.
The Wrighty Way
Please lend her some support. She is hoping to raise awareness of kidney cancer.

Wild at heart

30 Dec

“As tradition dictates I’ll pass it on to these five lovelies to see how wild they are..”

And so it came to pass that I was tagged in the meme “Guilty pleasures” by the naughty Scribbling Mum. Holy Christ, is this where everyone realises how boring I am?  It reminds me of Single Slummy Mummy who once replied to one of my serious, heart-felt comments with surprise, saying she’d previously had me penned as a bit of a hedonist. Hedonistic, me? Excuse me while I change my pants.  I’m the one who had the reputation for leaving student parties early without telling anyone, because I felt too drunk to have the “I’m leaving” conversation.  I’m also the one that slides off to bed during MY OWN dinner party.

So quite obviously this post is going to shame me into trying to think of 5 4 really random things that make me seem exciting, mysterious, a little bit kooky, but ending with me coming up with 5 4 dull scraps that make me look, well, just very very sad. So here goes….

No.1 – I sometimes substitute real dinners for “chocolate dinners”. This basically means I get to stuff my face with chocolate, but without all the tortuous guilt. So I stockpile – usually a large bag of Revels and another large bar of chocolate (well what great dinner has just one course?) – and then I sit on the sofa eating chocolate and watching crap tv until I feel sick. Really really sick. And then I go to bed and sleep it off.

No.2 – school dinners. Tinned macaroni with ketchup, squashed ham sandwiches, soggy fishfingers, arctic role. Put the equivalent of a school dinner in front of me and I’m like a pyromaniac in the Aussie outback.

no.3 – Britney Spears – well not Britney Spears exactly – as one of the most trashy, excrutiatingly bathetic (kerching, new word alert) records she’s ever made. The kind that would make any sane person feign puking and mock hanging simultaneously while rolling their eyes and whining “cut off my toes and stab me in the eyes”. I say this so I obviously, rationally, know the song is frickin’ awful, but I just can’t help but love a bit of a tragic story put to music.   Watch it here.

No. 4 – tracky bottoms pulled over my toes – ooh it makes my toes curl in anticipation just with the thought of it. 2 minutes in the door and I’ve changed out of any decent clothes and into the adult version of a babgro. Forget sexy or sassy. Frickin’ snug as a bug in a rug. mmmm..

So there you go, unrefined, with really questionable taste and appalling dress sense. Bit more guilty secrets than guilty pleasures, and about as “wild” as a tree in blossom on a sunny day in a cottage garden.

Oh well, Happy New Year, Happy New Hedonism?…..roll on my roaring 30s….

(And yes, I did have to go back and change this post to include 4 guilty secrets, not 5. Well I couldn’t think of a 5th, I’m that sad. So shoot me. )

I’m usually shy and retiring….

19 Dec

Ok, that’s quite clearly *llocks.

The thing is, i’m actually really quite made up about being nominated for the BMB Brilliant in Blogging shortlist for Fresh Voice of 2010. And the best thing? I didn’t even know the awards existed until someone told me i was one of the finalists. So you see, there wasn’t even any shameless flirting involved.

I know you’ve probably seen the nice badge on the right side of my blog – over there, look – it’s big and bold and brash, so you’ve probably either already voted for me, or already voted for some other loser great blogger on the list.

In any case i couldn’t let this opportunity slip without doing a bit more pimping / whoring / bleating of my blog or whatever they call it these days. So, please please, if you can see it in your heart to honour a shy, retiring soul like Milk please vote here *flutter flutter wink*. (i said i hadn’t flirted, not that i wouldn’t…)

Amen and out.