A night out with the 30 plus bloggers at Omniya London

Photo 08-11-2015, 17 14 15

What a bonkers week it's been. I started a new freelance job, back working in TV, and the first time I've worked out of somebody else's office in over 12 years.

Now every day has a thrilling air of Just how feral have I become? as I realise that there is more than just me and Dennis the cat who can hear me singing Eighties electronica or see me marching on the spot.

(Top tip for FitBit wearers - if you are trying to catch up on your step total for the day, I recommend cranking up the old Youtube and marching to Eighties electronica. Only if you work from home though. Not in anybody else's office. Definitely definitely not).

Also last week I gave a talk about social media to the Guild of Food Writers, who turned out to be a most excellent bunch. And then I boinged back to London again for the Omniya London bloggers event.

I mainly went to this event because it was exclusively for bloggers over 30. You would not believe how many beauty blogger events are empty of people over 30. We just don't get invited to some things, I guess because we would stink up the room with our aged faces and general feralness. Then we would hit the bar and start singing Eighties electronica and nobody needs to see that. But no matter, it's their loss.

So I want to say a big thank you to Hayley at London Beauty Queen and Omniya London for hosting this truly lovely 30 plus blogger event. Nobody in my real life likes to talk about skincare and weird face juice, but this was a room where you could do so with freedom. 


Omniya London

Nestled in the shadow of Harrods, Omniya does a pretty good impression of a French pharmacy like the ones I visited in Paris. The shelves are lined with oodles of cool skincare brands, some of which you'll know and others which are exclusive. It's skincare geek heaven, with lots of innovative stuff to try.

Omniya bills itself as a 'Health and Beauty Mediclinic' which means that it is part treatment rooms, part pharmacy and part health and beauty retailer. I'm not aware of anywhere else in the UK quite like it, especially with such a range of cult and niche skincare on offer. If you're in the Kensington area definitely drop in for a nose round, the shelves are packed with finds.

As Omniya opened its doors to the 30 plus bloggers, the room was made even more appealing by beautiful flowers from Bloomon and healthy minimeals from Treat. It was one of the friendliest blogging events I've been to; both brands and bloggers alike were incredibly warm and up for a chat.

I think I was a bit worried that a beauty event might be a bit scary with people judging if you were wearing the wrong shoes or whatever, but basically it was a bunch of nice people in a cool room, with macaroons. If only every blogging event could be like this. Also I got through the night without falling over or singing some Eighties electronica so RESULT.

When we were left were given an utterly cool and amazing gift bag of products to try. Some were from brands I'm already a big fan of, like Roger et Gallet, Vichy and La Roche Posay, others were from brands new to me like Fillerina and Zo Skin Health. Plus there was a chance to try some of the heroes of SkinCeuticals line.

So right now I'm resisting the temptation to throw it all at my face at once. I think some of the products will have to go towards a future giveaway because, you know, it's nice to spread the love around.

Photo 05-11-2015, 13 51 55

I've started using the Fillerina night cream as this is apparently a no-needle dermo-cosmetic filler which contains no less than six types of hyaluronic acid. I didn't even know there were six types of hyaluronic acid.You learn something new every day.


You can find out more about the 30 plus blog collective here.

Find out more about Omniya here

#Juneathon days 24 & 25 - It's Harry Potter day!

Juneathon_participant_logoJust a quick one from me because I am having one of those days with too much stuff going on, not enough hours.

Most importantly, this afternoon I'm off to the Harry Potter Studio Tour near London for the launch of their new Sweets and Treats exhibit.

This will be our third visit, but we're as excited as if it was the first. So my Fitbit steps today will be taken strolling round Hogwarts.

Also there is the little matter of six features to write, plus a few blog posts that need doing.

So given that I don't have time to go to the gym, that's exactly what I did and am just back from a pretty beastly BodyCombat class. I got a stitch, and I never get a stitch.

It was great.

Yesterday's exercise consisted of a hearty walk around the parks of Brighton with the teenager, discussing her plans to read all the books in the world. Also did my home abs workout and am up to about 20 press ups.

Coming up tomorrow I have a giveaway for a chocolate hamper because amidst all this healthy stuff you've got to have a bit of balance haven't you? 

Then I'll report back on the Harry Potter Experience and by then we'll be almost at the end of Juneathon and we can all say Hallelujah together.

Now, back to Hogwarts it is

#Juneathon day 8 - Pump it up at #OneLive


I nearly forgot to blog today, but I did complete my daily Juneathon activity by going to a BodyPump class at the gym and doing 12,000+ steps on the Fitbit.

If you like classes like that (they come under the Les Mills brand) there's a big group fitness event coming up this weekend in London called #OneLive. I've been invited but it's my son's birthday so instead I will be going to see Jurassic World and eating cake on the beach.

More about the #OneLive event here. It does sound pretty cool.

Here's the promo video:



I haven't been in a darkened room with that many sweaty people since...well...ever. It's probably for the best that I can't go. Those people have muscles on their muscles. Bring wet wipes if you're going. Also extra muscles.

Mumsnet's Blogfest: A retrospective

Blogfest opening session richard bacon

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
― Gloria Steinem


“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.”
― Phyllis Diller



Now I know I said I went to Mumsnet's Blogfest with no particular expectations, but then again I did lose half a stone and get a haircut so I must have been expecting a decent slice of action of some sort.

So much has been written about *that* feminism debate at Blogfest at the weekend, the other sessions have been slightly squeezed out.

What happened as well as all the shouting about jam and boobs?

Here are the sessions I went to and what I thought of them:


Opening debate - What kind of internet do we want?

This was a fascinating discussion about bad behaviour online, trolls (particularly on Twitter) and the part anonymity plays in online trolling. Many contributors on the wall of tweets spoke out against anonymity, whilst themselves using an assumed name. Bloggers crack me up sometimes.

Toby Young did not endear himself to the audience by keeping his laptop open for the initial minutes of the debate, like a teenager who doesn't want to join the family for dinner. 

Blogfest lols viv groskop tim dowlingThe big thing that was missing for me in this debate was the voice of the blogger - why were there no bloggers on the panel?

Over 4,000 blogs in this network and not one of them was deemed worthy or relevant enough for the opening panel? Blimey.


In it for the Lolz: writing funnier stuff

Obviously you can't totally teach people to be funny, but you can inspire them to be funnier, and this panel did.


Also: punch up, not down. You can get a better aim that way and it's less mean.


Think Bombs
Nuggets of thought-provoking cerebration delivered with style by Professor Tanya Byron, Dr Sue Black and Sir Jon Ronson (he's not a Sir but I think he deserves a title and if I start the rumour you never know where it might go).

I would've loved the chance to ask some questions and develop the rallying cries the panel started, but these Think Bombs were a bit like farts in that they all dropped one and left. But, y'know, good farts. Farts so stimulating they're worth talking about.


Just me then.


How blogging and social media can change our world
I went to this because, to be blunt, I'm trying to change the world by encouraging children's literacy, technical skills and confidence with KidsBlogClub.

One key pointer I picked up from this session was that many outstanding campaigns are not planned that way - they simply develop organically and the world reponds. So hurrah for making it up as you go along, a blueprint for life.


How to tell a better story

This was really magical, my favourite session of the day. All of the panelBlogfest feminism debate spoke with warm and gentle humour and I really felt that we were being challenged into something bigger here.

Most of the speakers, who included Lionel Shriver and AL Kennedy, were coming from the perspective of writing long form fiction, where obviously the parameters are different to blogging.

But I think we can all get behind: "Write as if you respect the person who's going to read it...Write a lot and all the time and only put a small amount of that out for people to read...If you don't love it, don't post it...If you do love it, edit it until it gives you pain, then publish...For the whole of your life you will be learning how to write well."

And finally, *that* feminism debate, in which we address the question: How many feminists does it take to piss off a mummy blogger? Answer: None at all, when the question is duff to begin with.


Can you be a mummy blogger and still be a feminist?

Now, I nearly didn't book on to Blogfest because of this debate. I thought that the title was incredibly patronising. I couldn't believe that this was considered an appropriate question to consider in 2013.

I assume that all intelligent women must be at some level feminist. So this debate question translates to me as: Can you be a mummy blogger and still be an intelligent woman? Er, quite. You can see why people got riled.

But I do like a shouty debate. For a long time I used to produce TV debate shows, specialising in particularly shouty ones. It did occur to me that the thinking behind this debate may have been to antagonise and shake things up a bit. Certainly it provoked many discussions about feminism which would not otherwise have taken place.

There was a complete disconnect between what was being said on stage and the fury of tweets being broadcast on the screen behind the panel. These were practically on the point of self-combustion when the whole screen of tweets got pulled.

So - was it provoking debate for the sake of it? Isn't that a bit like what trolls do? Isn't that where we came in?

And after that - to an audible sigh of relief, the awesomesauce of Jo Brand.


Then it was time for gin and a goody bag and home.

All in all I had a great day, it was like a tickling stick for the mind.

I deliberately chose 'big picture' sessions and that worked better for me. As an experienced blogger, I often find 'How to' sessions end up telling me stuff I was doing 6 months ago.

But big picture is uplifting, and being uplifted is good (so long as you translate that into action once you come back down to earth).

I thoroughly enjoyed every session, and the in between bits of talking to people, re-connecting with old friends and making new ones. The only thing I would change about the day is to include at least one blogger in every panel.


PS Mark Warner are sponsoring a Blogfest-related posts competition and have asked bloggers to include a tip on family holidays. Really, the best one I can usefully offer is - Don't book your family holiday to clash with Blogfest.

How to be less nervous at a blogger event


I wanted to call this post How Not to be Nervous at a Blogger Event - but then I realised that, for most of us not being nervous at all is an impossibility.

Everyone's nervous at events, from the speakers wondering if they'll dry up to the caterers wondering if anybody will like the food.

I have experienced some grim behaviour at networking events - people talking to me whilst simultaneously looking over my shoulder for someone more important; people taking out their phone to check their tweets whilst I'm talking to them; having everyone else in the vicinity apart from me invited to go on for drinks.

Yes, people can be ...erm...challenging at events. Perhaps it's because they're nervous, or simply ill-mannered. Who knows?

But you can't let the idiots win. You can't let the fear of how it could all go wrong stop you from engaging with great people and squeezing the most out of any event you attend.

So if we can't eliminate nerves entirely, how can we at least minimise them?

  • Arrive early
    This is the most important tip. When you arrive early at any event, the people there are either the organisers, sponsors or really keen beans, all of whom will be anxious for the event to succeed and will therefore be most open to chat. A room that’s packed full of people already deep in conversation is a much harder place to plunge into.
  • Talk to other attendees online beforehand
    Maybe make a plan to meet at the venue. DON'T say: You look so different to your profile pic because even if you mean it in a good way, your new friend will interpret it in a bad way and will be crying in the toilets within the hour.
  • Stand by the door
    When people first enter an event room, they invariably start looking around for someone to talk to. Like you they're afraid that they won't know anyone and no one will talk to them. So it's a good place to strike like a ninja. A Ninja of Blogchat.
  • Wear a Whatsit
    A Whatsit is something that you wear as a conversation opener, so people can easily ask you about it (by asking: What is it?). It could be your shoes, your hair colour, a slogan t shirt or an interesting necklace. NB if you are combining this with the Stand by the Door tip, don't make your Whatsit a tray of canapes as you may be mistaken for part of the catering team. Which is OK, but probably not your main intention when you booked a ticket for the event.
  • Don't be afraid to be alone
    Sometimes you have to just take a deep breath and take in your surroundings. It's OK to be alone in a busy room sometimes. Look around, meet people in the eye, smile and say hello.
  • But don't bury your head in your smartphone
    This is the great temptation when we're feeling nervous, to try and look busy and hide back in the online world where we're more comfortable. But if I see you on your smartphone then I'll assume you're busy and won't want to interrupt.
  • Watch your caffeine intake
    Some people are really sensitive to caffeine and find it can increase anxiety levels. If you're going to an event that you already suspect will make you nervous, give your anxiety levels a fighting chance by laying off the espressos.
  • Notice who else is alone
    Essentially, be the networker you wish everyone else was. Even if you're with a group of friends, keep your radar on for people who seem to be alone and look like they might want to chat. Welcome and you will be welcomed. Be kind, that never goes out of fashion.
  • Remember that everybody's as nervous as you
    Those people who look ultra composed and confident? Nervous The immaculately dressed person who looks like they just stepped out of a magazine? Bundle of nerves. The person who just looked right through you? Terrified, with bad eyesight. Me? Yes, I'm kind of nervous too.


 What's your best tip for dealing with blogger event nerves?

image credit: Mike Licht,

The Graphic Art of the Films of Harry Potter

On our recent visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour I loved the display of graphic art from the films - posters, books and packaging all had to be created to fit in with the Harry Potter world. And if you are somebody who likes films and fonts (as I do) it's pretty much heaven in a glass case.

And for a short time you don't have to go all the way to the studio tour to see this stuff. Opening soon in London is an exhibition devoted to the graphic art of the Harry Potter films.

This exhibition showcases graphic designs from the Harry Potter films from design studio MinaLima, reproduced as limited edition art prints. It runs from 17th to 28th June in London at the Coningsby Gallery. 100 works will be on show - here's a special preview:






The Marauders Map
Bellatrix Lestrange Wanted Poster

The Graphic Art of the Harry Potter Films runs from 17th - 28th June 2013 at The Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street London W1T 4RJ. Nearest Tube: Goodge Street. Open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm, 10am - 4pm Saturdays (not open Sundays)

A night out on the peas

Most of the time being a self-emplyed freelancer rocks, but at this time of year it's seriously lacking in the fun factor. No last day of working for you, no office parties and if you dare to take a few days off then you simply won't get paid.

There don't even seem to be any official blogger Christmas parties this year , unlike last year when the Tots100 party was a right good laugh.

So I had an ulterior motive in turning up to a recent blogger event, because I fancied a Christmas party and it looked like this was the closest I'd get.

However, as often happens when I leave the house, things went a bit wrong.

The event was celebrating the launch of a new shower gel via the obvious vehicle of a cooking evening. I guess a mass-bathe in would've been unhygenic. I don't write about beauty products or food so was a bit surprised to be invited. Perhaps I had been asked because I am often in need of a wash. This I can't deny.

I decided to find my way there  in true geek stylie aided only by the map on my iPhone - bad move. It took me on a circuitous route round London which involved dark alleys and parks full of men staring into the middle distance.

By the time I arrived at shower gel party central, I was a nervous wreck. Then my name wasn't on the list, confirming what I'd suspected that the invitation was a mistake. On the plus side, I was a bit sweaty by then, so a good candidate for shower gel.

Star of the night was undoubtedly author and TV chef Anjum Anand. She was so incredibly calm and graceful as she cooked a meal for 10, filled us in on the thinking behind ayurveda and ignored the two photographers who kept sticking dirty great lenses at her, plus the dozen or so bloggers who were getting a bit giddy on the wine. 


She even let the blogging massive stick their tweeting claws in the food. What a hero! She's my new ladycrush.



Anjum Anand made us Pea Cake, which sounds horrific but was actually flippin' nice. And if you don't believe me that Pea Cake is A Thing, here's the recipe.

And what of the shower gel, I'm sure you're wondering? Well, it's a new Ayurvedic-inspired range called Palmolive Ayuritel and the bottle is shaped like a fish. Although it looks like a ladyproduct the scents are actually fairly unisex so all the family can use it.



 It's scented with stuff like ginger, mandarin and neem and called Joyous, Energy and Tranquility. (Why does nobody ever make a product called Meh? I would buy a crate). Palmolive Ayuritel is £2.99 from Sainsbobs. Meh would probably be pricier than that and do a worse job at keeping you clean.

After the event I headed off into the night and once again the Marauder's Map on my iPhone got me thoroughly lost, this time in the company of Dotty Dolly, a young blogger with fabulous swooshy hair who is cleary less in need of a wash than me.

So: iPhone adventures, pea cake and shower gel. Clearly a night out to remember.

I'm not leaving the house again for the rest of the year.

Fear, chaos, music, books

In a moment of serendipity that almost never happens, our house has birthed two new books in the same week.

The kids are feral, the washing mountain has its own postcode, but at least the bookshelf is looking nice and healthy.

I already told you about my book about fear of driving. It seems to be doing alright; every time I mention fear of driving on Twitter I'm met with blasts of I NEED THIS BOOK from all corners, which is gratifying.

And not content with already publishing a novel this year, Himself has gone back for seconds.  This is what happens when you work on books for years and years - occasionally they light up all at once.



KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money is the true, and thoroughly bonkers, story of the band who made a million quid, then burned it all on a fire and tried to delete themselves from musical history. Even if you haven't heard the KLF's music in years, I bet if you were around in the Nineties you remember this:



The KLF book is being promoted by an algorithmic radio station, broadcasting a mix of music samples and chunks of the book read out by a computer. I know! Publishing is crazy these days. Radio Eris is only broadcasting until midnight on Friday 7th December so catch it while you can. 

I, on the other hand, am doing an interview for a broadsheet newspaper. This makes me feel about 105. But in a good way.

Yo ho ho and a bucket of plasticine

The kids have been back at school for a week now but I am only just coming up for air. We celebrated the last day of the school holidays with a pirate themed trip to London. We've been invited by Aardman who are launching their film The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists on DVD.

First of all there was an impressive pirate-themed buffet. Here is the before and after of the cake (Look away if you are easily distressed by scenes of violence to perfectly good cake):

Then pirate lookalike Jim from Aardman taught us how to turn squishy strips of plasticine into Polly the Dodo, star of the film:

Then we watched the film, and I was surprised to find that Polly, whom I'd made a gawdawful mess of re-creating in plasticine, was actually the star of the show. The film also revealed the significance of a large joint of ham in the buffet. You live and learn.

The juniors and I enjoyed the film very much - it's a piratey, sciency historical romp with bouncy music. And at 84 minutes it's not too long, which I liked - too many kids' films don't know when to quit when they're ahead. But this is great fun, we all liked it a lot. Plus one of the pirates is voiced by Jeremy Piven AKA Ari Gold from Entourage who's always guaranteed aceness.

The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists is out this week on DVD and Blu Ray, priced from £9.99.

Includes lots of  bonus features

•        Filmmakers’ Commentary
•        Exclusive to DVD: MR. BOBO’S FLASH CARD CHALLENGE
•        “From Stop to Motion” featurette
•        “Creating the Bath Chase Sequence” featurette
•        DVD-ROM link to more fun online


No cake though. Alas, like dodos, the cake is extinct.

The Italian Job, Sussex style


So remember that bit at the end of The Italian Job, where the coach is teetering over the edge of a cliff, and Michael Caine says:


"Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea"


Well, now it's been reimagined as an art installation by Richard Wilson and it's currently teetering on the roof of the De la Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex. We went to see at the weekend.




Part-funded by Eddie Izzard, it's swaying over the car park until 1 October 2012.




Try to pay it a visit if you're within shouting distance of Sussex. As free days out go, it's pretty amazing.