Bacon, cake and burning your bra


Mumsnet Blogfest 2013 was quite a day.

I’ve only been an approved Mumsnet blogger for a few months and I had no idea what to expect, but it was Jo Brand who caught my eye. The thought of being up close and personal with Jo lead me to get up close and personal with the event details and what I read really appealed. It also gave me a sense of affirmation that if I went I really would be a ‘proper blogger’ –  I’ve been called much worse.

So I booked – feeling that I may be out of my depth among ‘real writers’ and wondering if I’d get found out. I blog about the warmth, humour and beauty of life with an autistic 17 yr old daughter. The insight and revelations that come from seeing life through a different lens helps me (and some others) cope with what can often be very difficult situations where you feel alone and overwhelmed. But I feared that some of the ‘real’ bloggers may think me a bit of a fraud.

I stayed in London the night before the event with a good friend who confessed that he knew Jo Brand from his home town and had once been knocked off his bar stool by her. Apparently  he was very much the worse for wear and because Jo knew him a bit he was attempting to be enthralling for her entertainment. He clearly misjudged his talents and his fall to earth from her elbow was justly dealt, becoming the stuff of local pub legend! I so badly wanted to ask Jo at the end of her speech if she had ‘ever punched a bloke’ but with the room still full of feminist tensions I decided against it.

From the start of the day, the star studded panellists;  ranging from Richard Bacon (yes I wanted to lick his face) through to Stella Creasy MP (I’ll gladly lick her face when she makes Prime Minister)  made me feel proud I’d taken the decision to come.

What I didn’t do well however – was mix. My day job is very social. I am paid to network and talk but here I just didn’t want to – or perhaps I didn’t feel able to. I felt how my daughter must feel, watching but never quite knowing how to read the situation and join in. And in truth I didn’t know what I could offer. Telling people I write about my autistic daughter isn’t really all it is. I write about her as a superhero, the star of her own soap opera – but that still sounded too sentimental– so I just copped out and watched the day’s event unfold – and I loved it!

I bumped badges with a few people but what worked for me best was the Twitter and #tag interactions. Being able to comment and observe and make contact with the wonderful people on stage. Feeling I was justified in making a connection with them and finding these brilliant and amazing people who wanted to talk back to me.

My lunch time was taken up with the sponsors. I spent a lot of time talking to Red and Yellow care, writing prose with Honda and drinking gin with Mark Warner and as a result I managed to compose a Tweet which won me a ‘Tweet of the Day’ prize and delicious box of Beverly Hills cup cakes.

When Justine announced my win just after Jo Brand’s keynote speech I was as thrilled as if I’d just been awarded a Head Girl badge and a 5* Mark Warner holiday to Levante Beach. I wanted to go up on stage and kiss everyone. I felt confident beyond any justification and found myself ferociously winking at Jo Brand figuring my perceived level of tweeting stardom would surely mean she’d hire me as a script writer immediately!

I couldn’t stay for the drinks afterwards but I struggled back to the Shire that evening with my bulging goody bag and magnificent pink ribboned box of cup cakes. I’d been rattled by the feminist debate at the end of the day and left with an overwhelming sense that the brand of feminism on display there was really bullying disguised as a principle. This was in total contrast to those like Laura Bates from @EverydaySexism or @StellaCreasy who earlier had shown magnificent displays of dignity, intelligence and strength far beyond the feminist posturing I witnessed on stage in that final debate.

But in the end – thank God for Jo Brand – her humour and sideways look at life put everything back in perspective.  Laughing in the face of conflict is what I try to demonstrate in my blog. Finding humour in adverse situations is the cure for almost all of life’s daily challenges  – well that and a huge box of cup cakes of course.

My Top Tip for a holiday? Take Jo Brand. And if you can’t do that, pack as much into your precious holiday days away as you can. Life is too short to regret a single moment and even if you have autism just look what you can do when you live it to the full.