How not to be the perfect blogger

There are many bloggers who I admire for all sorts of reasons, and my recent trip to Blogfest has introduced me to even more amazing blogs that render me speechless with a worryingly furious envy. Reading these blogs has made me even more aware of how lacking in blogger-savvy I am, and so this post is all about why I will never be a perfect blogger.

1. I can’t take photos for shit.

There are some bloggers who pride themselves on their level of photography, not just sticking on the nearest Instagram filter and hoping for the best, but genuinely taking a proper photo with a real grown up camera (not just the crappy one on your generic smart phone which usually has some sort of greasy mark over the lens) and then EDITING it. Adding things like contrast, definition, jingle bells and so on (I added in jingle bells to see if anyone would notice it wasn’t a real editing technique – deffo got away with it.) My photos are just dreadful. If I haven’t got my finger over the lens, the focus is blurred, or I’ve taken it at an inexplicably wonky angle (probs drunk.) When I do manage to add a photo into a blog post I feel an overwhelming sense of pride, only to then come back to it a few minutes later and realise how dire it actually looks. Photos are not for me.

2. I can’t use technology to save my life.

You will notice some links on the left hand side of this writing. They are supposed to link up to thinkgs like my blog Facebook page and my Twitter account, or encourage you to sign up and ‘follow’ my blog, however I am 99% sure that they do not work properl/that no-one ever wants to follow me or my blog because I’m far too irritating (it must be the technology thing, right? RIGHT?!) I also would like to be able to change my blog layout and format around, or even just alter the background colour, or perhaps swap my photo for a much less obviously posed one. The reason I cannot do these things is because my technical ability is limited to being able to switch on a computer, and having the know-how to wiggle a cable a bit if something isn’t working. I’m not even entirely sure how my DVD player works (don’t tell Pedro – I’d never live it down). For these reasons, my blog does not have ‘widgets’ or ‘badges’ as I simply cannot be arsed spending an entire day getting hot, frustrated and increasingly frizzy as I attempt to work out how to make my blog as slick as everyone elses.

3. I cannot be bothered writing 40 drafts of a post.

At Blogfest I attended a ‘Find My Funny’ panel discussion (and before you all think you’re hilarious, no, I clearly didn’t find it) with some amazing writers such as Arabella Weir, Jon Ronson and Rebecca Front. They admitted to making as many as 40 edits of a post or article before publishing it – really?! I simply do not have the patience to read something that I have written that number of times – I’d be bored to tears (there might be another reason why I am not a perfect blogger, if my posts bore even myself). I am very aware that I am rubbish at ending posts – if you don’t believe me, check out the ending to some of my other posts – I bet I stop abruptly, ineptly try to write a conclusion, then put an open question in the hope of enticing even one or two comments, usually from a good friend, or worse, a relative. (Please please keep commenting!)

4. I don’t take photos of myself – ever.

Some stunning blogs have amazing photos of the author at a lovely day out looking impeccable and casually stylish. If I took a photo of me at a lovely cafe sampling delicious cakes you would all be unjustly exposed to my unruly hair swept up into a rubbish topknot to allow the chocolate from the cake to be all over my face, rather than in my hair. You would see that the carefully applied (slapped on with a trowel) concealer has melted away revealing hideous dark shadows under my eyes, and that my outfit is mismatched (but not in a chic stylish way) and my cardi has a hole under the armpit, and is probs inside out.

5. I don’t get sent beautiful products to review.

I love reading blogs where the author has been sent something lovely and perfumed to review – oh no wait, I feel an immense rage and jealousy. The closest I have got is a rather ranty and unsolicited review about First Class on a train – or some embarassingly gushy ones about restuarants where I had to pay for my meal, despite making Pedro feel mortified by a) taking photos of my food before eating it, not something I’d ever usually do as I’d usually be shovelling it into my face and b) talking VERY LOUDLY about my blog every time a waiter came near, all in the hope I’d be told that my meal was on the house. Sigh.

So there you have it – the reasons why I will never be a perfect blogger. What are your tips for the perfect blog? (See – told you I was rubbish at ending posts – see point 3 above!)

 

 

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First Class – a first class waste of money?

As part of my weekend visit to Blogfest in the fair city of London, I took it upon myself to book my trains for the journey early to get the best possible prices. On booking my return ticket I was offered an upgrade to first class for a bargainous amount. Knowing this would be a long journey, I decided to treat myself.

First Class was not a luxury I’d ever treated myself to before, so I was very excited. I imagined an Orient Express level of glamour and opulence, and my very favourite thing – freebies.

On my outward journey I presented myself eagerly at that hallowed of all places – the First Class Lounge at the station. Upon my slightly smug arrival, I was informed that as I’d had the audacity to book in advance I would have to pay a further £5 to enter the lounge. Being the good Northern girl I am I refused, and flounced off in a huff. My train was then cancelled, fortunately I had been my usual pathologically early self and was able to board an earlier train. This was lucky, as one member of staff cheerfully told me that if I’d had to wait for the next one I was not guaranteed a seat at all, let alone the First Class one I’d already paid for. Hmm.

Not letting a couple of set backs deter me, I boarded the train onto the disappointingly average looking First Class coach, and was immediately offered a hot drink. Ruffled feathers became instantly smoothed, and after playing around with my rather comfortable adjustable chair, I settled into my journey. The free wi-fi was an unexpected bonus, but I soon realised the signal strength was as intense as a rather tepid shower feels, and abandoning any hope of using the internet for any prolonged time I did what I usually do when not in First Class and read.

The meal I received (free of charge, of course) was something I’d been looking forward to, but ended up being distinctly sub standard, and certainly not as nice as the train picnics I’d provided for myself In the past.

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Nevertheless the free gin and tonics were perfectly delicious and refreshing.

I went to use the toilet, which I discovered was out of order, prompting me to walk to the next carriage, where a rather large queue was forming. Luckily I have always been able it ‘hold on’ at will, earning me the nickname of ‘iron bladder’ by my family, which I now feel sounds like a Game of Thrones character.

The return journey is actually worse – if that can be believed. My seat didn’t adjust at all, meaning that right now I am sat up remarkably straight which I’m sure is wonderful for my posture but is not the most comfortable for a long journey. I am sat beside another out of order ‘convenience’ which is not the most pleasant smelling. The plug which I was hoping to use to charge my phone is not working – which the guard cheerfully told me was something he’d noticed on the previous journey. About an hour ago eh offered to see if there was a spare seat anywhere else for me – alas he has not returned.

Is First Class worth the premier price tag? Unfortunately, no. Other than the comfortable chair (providing yours is working), and cuppas on demand, East Coast have not provided me with the level of lushness I was hoping for.

First Class is a First Class waste of your money.

The Imposter at Blogfest

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I won’t lie, I didn’t know what to expect from Blogfest, an annual event sponsored by Mumsnet. Being a new blogger I was worried that I would be shunned and cast aside by seasoned professionals who would sneer at my questions about the basics of social media. Most of all I was worried that: a) getting a train down to London and accommodation for 2 nights would have been a waste of time; b) I wouldn’t learn anything, and c) I would make a fool of myself.

Although at the start of the day I felt like an imposter, I soon realised that I couldn’t have been more wrong (ok – one of the above came true – more on that later). Everyone at Blogfest was so nice and friendly, and I was incredibly inspired by all the amazing speakers there.

My friend Emma and I (of http://www.channelislandsblog.wordpress.com fame) had travelled down to our nation’s capital the day before, had an emotional yet hilarious reunion at Kings Cross Station which Emma got lost in. We walked up to the venue which was conveniently located near our hotel (ok, Premier Inn) then collected our name badges which I maybe pretended was an exclusive press pass (totes did). I have to say the venue was amazing – over several floors of beautiful glass and shiny floors which made me feel very important. The other bloggers were of all different ages and types of people – many were parents, as you would expect at a mumsnet event, but like me, many were beginner bloggers looking for some tips and ideas.

The catering throughout the day was LUSH. We were given a million (to the nearest million) opportunities to refresh ourselves with endless tea, coffee, juice, coke, and never ending pastries. This is where I made a fool of myself for the first time by unknowingly dropping a tiny delicious pastry on the floor:

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Shameful. Surrounded by all these chic professional bloggers and I drop a pastry on the floor, not realising til it’s too late. I should have probably picked it up before someone slipped on it…

The opening panel was all about the role of the Internet, featuring amazing speakers such as columnist Tim Dowling, Sarah Vine, and Susie Boniface. There was an awkward moment when my tweet describing my mortification on realising that a man I’ve blogged rather unfavourably about in the past was married to Sarah Vine flashed up on the big screen behind her, but later on she replied to it and was very nice indeed about my Gove-bashing so I didn’t feel too bad.

After yet more coffee and cake (remaining safely on my plate) we went to our first breakout session. There were a few to choose from, but Emma and I elected to attend ‘How to find your Funny’ and we sat on the front row near these brilliant ladies:

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Pretty stellar company, I’m sure you’ll agree. There was a debate between the panellists on how much to reveal about others in your blogposts, with some saying ‘fuck ’em’ (Arabella Weir – just as fabulous as she sounds) and others arguing more for empathy for the subjects of humour. What do you think? Can you go too far when writing for humour?

We then had three 5 minute long ‘think bombs’ designed to get you thinking differently and creatively – I was really inspired by Francesca Martinez who reminded us of the strength and power of our bodies.

Accepting yourself as you are is an act of civil disobedience.

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Lunch was extremely tasty, and with plenty of time to go and visit some of the stalls of the event sponsors. I once again felt like an imposter as I hurtled past all the calm, collected bloggers to enter every competition going and try to get my hands on as many freebies as possible. After some furtive glances around I soon realised that others were also partaking in the freebie-raid, and that any intense, serious looking discussions were mainly about what other freebies we were likely to receive.

In the afternoon I attended my favourite panel ‘Can blogging change the world’. I had been looking forward to this due to the inspirational women on the panel, including a bit of a childhood heroine Carrie Grant. Still feeling like an imposter, I plucked up the courage to ask a question about the strength of one voice in making a huge world change, and was very proud to feel included in the answer. Carrie Grant spoke about the voice of women, reminding us that:

You are not powerless. You are not a burden, you are an asset.

The next session was a round table skills sharing on social media. I was hoping to learn more about how to effectively get the most of twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. If I’m honest, I didn’t get very much out of this discussion as I felt the room was too busy to hear very much in, and the chairs were set out so that I was sat outside of the ’round table’ circle. This was the closest I got to feeling like an imposter all day.

After this there were more pastries. I dropped my second pastry on the floor, but this time picked it up quickly and surreptitiously. I then ruined this by tweeting it to everyone at blogfest with the #pastrygate. Hopefully they saw the funny side.

The closing panel was on ‘the power of writing’ and featured novelist Nick Hornby. The final speaker, comedian Lucy Porter has us all laughing at her talk of penis cups, left handed masturbation, and outwitting sexist cab drivers.

After canapés and one too many free drinks, Emma and I returned to our hotel (Premier Inn) to watch Strictly in our PJs, and root through our goodie bags:

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I can definitely say that next year I will be returning, and this time with the confidence to call myself a blogger – no longer an imposter.

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