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friends, Guest bloggers, Journalism, Media, Online journalism, social media, what I think, Writing

Surrounded by women bloggers: my day at Cybher!

I have never in my life been to a conference in which mothers breast feed babies while guest speakers talk, undeturbed, about their area of expertise. And that pretty much sums up the relaxed atmosphere at Cybher on Saturday – the UK’s only conference for female bloggers – in which 300 were in attendance.

Throw in free leather satchels, a constant supply of coffee and cookies, some talented and inspiring speakers and lots of happy, smiling faces, and you can’t go far wrong.

9am to 6pm is a long day at a conference for me and I’ve always had enough by 4pm – especially given my 6.30am alarm call to trog to London on the train with my sidekick for the day. But I was wide awake and 6pm and returned home to Milton Keynes feeling inspired.


Cookies and coffee and handbags Podcasting session with The High Tea Cast Caz Walton's Cybher badge

Caz and an AVG cupcake Taking notes at Cybher Cybher conference screen in the ballroom


I’ve never attended a conference where I’m not ‘working’ it – and Cybher was no different. My latest MA project on multimedia covers the conference, the stories behind some of the guest speakers and how blogs can change people’s lives.

So I had one eye on the conference and the other on my project but, to be honest, this assignment has been a lot of fun and one thing is clear – bloggers are talented, powerful and most of all, lovely. Not concerned about competing with each other, they’re all happy to share their experiences, their tricks of the trade and their expertise. Very refreshing!

So, enough from me, go check out for indepth interviews with some of the speakers as well as a round up of Cybher in pictures, text and audio.

Five for Friday, Food, friends, Holidays, Life in general, Marriage, Writing

Five for Friday: Why I'm peeing my pants in excitement for summer

Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire

I wouldn’t usually wish huge chunks of the year away but I positively cannot wait until June. Here’s why…

1) Bye bye studies (temporarily), and hello life (temporarily)
Once my next assignment is submitted in early June I’ll be free of study for the whole summer, which means I get my evenings and weekends back and complete freedom to… DO WHATEVER I WANT! Whether it’s dinner and drinks with the girls, a day out with hubby or clearing out the garage (I’m itching to get in there and unleash my inner Monica) I can do it. Hoorah! I can even spend a whole weekend in my pyjamas watching back-to-back episodes of Murder She Wrote, eating nothing but biscuits and drinking tea from china cups if I want to. It’s not that I don’t love the MA, I do, but a break will be blissful and hopefully well earned.

2) Holiday!
Usually, as January 1st of each year rolls around me and hubby will be booking a holiday, putting a marker in the calendar to drag us through the bleak winter months when there’s nothing much to be cheery about. Christmas behind us, we always need a holiday to look forward to. We’ve planned nothing this year because we’ve been reluctant to spend any money (having a tight arse phase at the mo – and hubby nearly bankrupted us with his eggnog latte addiction) and free holidays don’t exist – or rather, they do, but are at my mum’s house in the Shire. And while we STILL haven’t booked anything, we WILL be taking at least a week off in June to revel in some Cornish sun, make ourselves sick on rum and raisin ice cream and cream teas, eat in seafood restaurants, explore parks and gardens and generally have a bloody marvelously British time.

3) Writing, writing, writing
It’s really not possible to work full time, do an MA part time and manage to eat, bathe and dress myself daily as well. Throw in time with the family, time to read, watch my fave TV programmes and wind down after a long day in front of a computer, play netball and volleyball and try and salvage some inkling of a social life, and my poor old writing tends to fall off the ‘really need to get on and do’ list. I’ve just managed to enter two competitions which, luckily, only require the first chapter or two of my novel (and I await with baited breath!) but it’ll be lush to get some proper time back to focus on writing projects, my blogging, my novel, some freelance work. Bring it on. I’m brimming with ideas and won’t be fulfilled until I’ve put this creativity into action.

4) Afternoon tea and a slice of heritage
To celebrate the handing in of my last assignment of the academic year hubby and I plan to while away a few hours at Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed. We’ll soak up the history, the grounds, the well thought out camera angles, and revel in a slice of British history and an era brought alive by a fictional place called Downton Abbey. And on the way home we’ll stop for afternoon tea a posh hotel in Marlow, using the voucher my delightful friend Bloater (she’s not fat, far from it, but has been known to eat a whole maltloaf in two bites) gave me for my birthday. A lush present and hubby and I will use it to pretend, just for a couple of hours, that we’re civilised.

5) Sporting highlights
June to September calendar highlights include: car shopping (hoping my current batmobile lasts that long); Buchy and Bruiser’s birthday bash (these are my husband and wife friends, not a comedy duo btw); the Big Doggie Do – the dog show in which Ralphie was crowned cutest puppy two years ago; Mandy’s wedding in July; Olympic volleyball in August (we have tickets!) and topped off nicely by a weekend oop norf and a trip to the York Festival of Writing (need to run that last one past hubby first).


Pictured above is Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

friends, Just stuff, Life in general, Random, what I think

Why I hate nightclubs…

Fame hen weekendI had loads of fun at my mate’s Fame-themed hen weekend (I have to say that, I was co-organiser, but it happens to be true) although it did serve to remind me why my clubbing days are well and truly over. I used to love a good night out but now the sofa beckons…

Here’s why…

1) You have to pay to get in. And if you don’t like it when you do get in, there’s no refund policy or try before you buy.

2) Even if someone is shouting directly into your earhole, you still can’t hear them.

3) Random men feel it’s appropriate to dribble over you, grab your buttocks and spoon you on the dancefloor. It isn’t.

4) You have to queue for a ridiculously long time to get a drink. In this day and age where you can get the latest James Paterson novel on your kindle in three minutes flat, slow bar staff and elbow-jostling queues just doesn’t do it for me.

5) Clubs smell of incredibly sweaty armpits. The toilets smell of wee, poo and incredibly sweaty armpits.
Going to the toilet involves dodging other women’s wee, grappling for tissues in the absence of loo roll and getting scowled at by other women as you top up your lip gloss in the mirror. At the weekend, two guys were so brazen they chose the ladies loos as a good place to (potentially) pull. Helllloooo! Seriously guys, you need to try harder.

6) Women in nightclubs don’t like other women. Every other female who isn’t your friend (and sometimes even your friends count) is judged as competition for single men or a threat to happy couples and nice looking women are generally disliked most. None of this bothers me in the slightest but as a semi sober person I noticed a lot of women scowling.

7) High heels and dance floors don’t go. My trainer-hungry feet were screaming at me in pointy high heels and forced me to lean against a wall and sway for the latter part of the evening as my shoes lay idle on the floor and my bare feet dodged the spilled beer and broken glass.

8) Night clubs don’t get busy until very late. We arrived at 11.15pm and it was practically empty. 11.15pm is pushing my bedtime as it is, it’s a struggle to stay up later just to catch the crowds.

9) Leaving nightclubs is the best bit, the chance to kick off the killer heels, head towards a warm and cosy bed and maybe scoff a dirty kebab on the way. But first you have to dodge touchy-feely men, drunken shouty women and sporadic piles of sick, just to get to the taxi.

10) The reason why I used to like clubbing? I was so blind drunk that I never noticed any of the above. Maturity and sensible drinking has a side effect – awareness.

friends, Journalism, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, Media, Online journalism, Random, work

No silly season here

Gah, it’s been manic. Here’s why:

1) Silly season becomes serious season

In the world of journalism and universities (my job kinda straddles both) August is supposed to be ‘silly season’, where nothing much happens and you can glide through the days, working on the stuff you haven’t had time for during the other 11 months of the year. Not so this year, in either respect. Work has been crazy busy with not a second to spare, lots of projects starting or finishing and lots of deadlines to be met. And LOTS of emails. I mean, who actually did any work before email was invented? We’ve also been hearing about the goings on in Libya, the endless ins and outs of the phone hacking scandal and about the riots in London, Birmingham and oop north (and in MK where watermelons were the weapon of choice – hardcore youths or what?) which turned silly season into a very serious season.

2) Mastering a Masters

I’m starting an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University in September. This is the first mention of this on my blog but it won’t be the last and I’ve been planning an offshoot of Robyn’s Nest to pour my MA ramblings into. So keep an eye out for Journo Nest, coming soon. Why am I doing it? Because it’s time for the next challenge; I’ve realised journalism will always be my passion and I want to turn the online skills I’ve learned through trial and error into something more tangible and useful to my future career, whatever that may be. Plus there’s so much cool stuff happening out there in online journalism and I want to be part of it. Oh, and I don’t have a degree – which has never been a problem for me but warrants a whole separate blog post – and I’d quite like to boast some letters after my name, just for the craic. And so, registering, references, getting accepted – I have a scholarship! – and sorting my pre-course reading list, attempted timetable, doing plenty of online research and applying to blog elsewhere (as a project for my MA) has kept me pretty darn busy.

3) Hell yeah, I have a social life

My social life has been busy too. Given that the MA is likely to wipe away a lot of my social activity, I’m cramming it in now. So that’s meant trips to the shire to see friends and family and catch up with newly engaged friends; a trip to Liverpool to see my mate’s pregnancy bump for the first time; arranging another mate’s hen weekend which is approaching quicker than I dare to think about; hosting friends and their children (which serves as a reminder that I’m not quite ready to trade lie ins for screaming babies just yet); catching up with the in-laws at barbecues, dinners and tours of our new house; brunch with my Leicester buddies and their children who squeal every time Ralphie draws near and the puzzlement on his face because most people melt at the site of him; the last of the summer season of netball matches and the odd training session; dinner with the MK posse to celebrate some fabulous news, and a Mexican-themed Come Dine With Me, MK style, which takes place this weekend at Chez Robyn. Hmmm, not sure I have time to grow a curly moustache by then.

4)  Growing a plan

Me and hubbles wanted to set some milestones and try and suss out our five-year plan. So many of my friends have one of these (cripes, does that mean we’re all growing up? At last!) and we kinda felt left out. We actually have no idea what we want in the next five years (apart from being filthy rich and living in bliss in a spacious Manhattan apartment with huge roof garden for Ralphie) other than we’d like to re-turf the garden, grow vegetables, dig a nice border and fill it with shrubs. So, no idea what the future holds for us but if that doesn’t look rosy the garden certainly will do.

5)  Walkies!

I spend a lot of time with Ralphie. He gets a 6am walkies, I dash from work to do the lunch time shift and he gets one most evenings too. It’s not for my love of walking, it’s for love of Ralphie. I’d feel guilty if I didn’t walk him, one of the things he loves most. He gets ridiculously excited just if I go to the cupboard where his lead’s kept or if I slip my shoes on. He’s had a sore paw of late too and not been his usual perky, bouncy self. I can only describe it as a pink slug attached to the top of his paw which he’s obsessed with licking. Antibiotics have been prescribed but it’s reminded me and hubbles how protective we are of him and how we’d do anything to make him happy and comfortable. No wonder we’re not ready for kids – Ralphie has our full focus at the mo. I do love that little bow wow.

6) Stoopid chores

It seems to be the time of year when I need an eye test; car needs a service and MOT; savings accounts need setting up; the boiler needs checking; I need to restock my make-up bag, ongoing battle with scummy ex landlord involving lots of letter writing; and I could do with registering at the doctors sooner rather than later. And loads of other trivial stuff which mounts up and means free time is never all that free. Oh, and HSBC have gone and made it nigh on impossible to access my bank account online unless I want to carry a small calculator around with me. Grrr. I feel a strongly worded letter coming on.

So, apols for the lameness of this blog post; much more meaty stuff is to come, I promise.