Now, before we go any further with this tale, go make yourself a brew. I want you to be sitting comfortably before I entice you any further as this post is a long’un!
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
The day dawned with a bright blue sky on Monday 16th May – and quite right too, what with it being a special day. I stretched out in bed and thought,
‘It’s finally here! Today is going to be better than Christmas.’
Little did I know HOW much better than Christmas it was going to be!
You see when Catherine announced that the 30-40+ Blogger Meet was going to be held at The Imperial in Fulham – an old stomping ground of mine in London – it would’ve been rude not to have gone! In our courting days and early married years, Tall Brown Fox and I lived over the river in Battersea. We would often hop on the 345 bus from Clapham Junction and tootle over the Thames to either shop, stroll or go to the cinema on the Fulham Road. Ah, happy days!
I booked my blogger meet ticket pronto, cleared my day of clients and classes so I could attend, beyond excited at the prospect of meeting so many bloggers I follow and admire, as well as meeting some new ones. I was ready and dressed in good time on the day, had painted my nails the evening before and had laid out my outfit in the spare bedroom before I went to bed the night before…..
shouts small voice of reason.
‘There’s artistic licence and then there’s fantasy! C’mon, tell the truth!’
Ok, well, I did clear my day, that part is true. I had planned what I was going to wear beforehand so that’s partially true! However, the weather on the day of, decided to put on all its finery – blue, blue, blue skies and warm, so out the window went my original outfit!
Now I normally wear colour but having seen Suzi of Alternative Aging wearing a wonderful vintage dress she’d posted on instagram that morning, I decided to wear a vintage-esque tea dress, especially as in my working life wearing dresses isn’t practical! I bought it a couple of years ago on e-bay for a song.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to leave as early as I hoped – the life of the self employed means a flurry of Monday morning emails had to be dealt with before I could leave. And then I had the bright idea of painting my nails about half an hour before I was due to leave.
WHY? I have no idea!
Have you ever tried to fish out your front door keys from your twiddly diddy embroidered, silk bag and lock your front door when your nails are drying? I looked like I was doing some weird kabuki finger dance!
I arrived slightly flustered, muttering a la White Rabbit;
‘I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.’!
However, any flusterings were immediately banished when I heard my name called out;
And who should come beaming towards me than Greetje from No Fear of Fashion, whose blog I’ve been following for quite a while. She took this lovely photo of me, literally within seconds of me stepping over the threshold.
Then Siobhan from Well Styled caught my eye (we follow each other on instagram), gave me a wonderfully big smile and mouthed hello.
What a welcome!
Then our hostess, Catherine herself came over and made me feel very at home.
Before I knew it, I had a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a goody bag in the other!
Catherine had been incredibly organised and we all had a blank card to fill out as an easy way to introduce ourselves, in case we didn’t have business cards. So much better than a badge or a peel off label, which can ruin clothes.
And even I had been incredibly organised! My new blogging business cards had arrived the Friday before the event; just in the nick of time! Of course, I had to have a photo of me wearing my signature look of a beret.
In fact, quite a few bloggers at the event did ask whether I was going to wear a beret to the event (my I’m becoming recognised!) and I had dallied with the idea of wearing one! Maybe for the next one. When it’s in Winter!
My best hand writing on display here!
The venue had a welcoming atmosphere, modern without looking like it was trying to be too hip!
This light fitting sadly didn’t fit into my goody bag. Shame, it would’ve looked perfect in my hallway.
Neither did this picture!
After initial ‘getting to know you’s, nibbles and Prosecco, it was time for lunch. I sat next to Emma of Style Splash who was wearing an amazing feathered necklace I’d seen on facebook that morning and Laurie of Vanity and Me.
Here’s Laurie and I. You know, it really is a small world. We discovered quite by chance that we’re both originally from Essex – no Essex girl jokes please – and that we now both live the other side of London, only about 40 minutes away from each other! We’re going to make a date for a duet blogger meet up!
Here are the rest of the very friendly and chatty ladies at my table.
Lots of new friendships were being made. The lady in the white embroidery dress below is Siobhan who gave me the beaming smile when I arrived.
Sadly, we didn’t get a photo together. Next time, Siobhan, next time, I promise!
After the lunch, Catherine gave an informal talk entitled ‘How To Win At Blogging’, sharing some of her thoughts and wisdom garnered over the years she’s been blogging.
The three themes were giving, receiving and exposing. I think for many of the ladies there, starting blogging has been quite an exposing venture. To put yourself out there on the internet for scrutiny can be quite a leap of faith, especially when you’re a 40+ blogger in a sea of 20+ fashionistas.
She talked about maintaining a unique identity and how we should be shouting from the rooftops that we are proud to be 40+ bloggers. This resonated with everyone in the room because I got the feeling from many there that we feel us 40+ ladies aren’t being well catered enough in fashion. Yes, the more adventurous amongst us and many bloggers at the event, are quite comfortable mixing thrifted with high street, vintage gems with modern classics but I get the impression that the average 40+ woman can feel a little lost on the high street if she wants to evolve her style from what it was in her 20s.
Catherine gave some useful blogging tips such as being mindful to present only one social media identity, which hurrah, I do! I use the same pic across all my social media (including my new swanky blogging business cards), so at least this blogging newbie is doing something right!
And talking of being a newbie, I thought I might be one of the youngest blogs there but NO! Turns out Eddie of Artie and Eddie had literally only be blogging for a few days! And then later, I had a lovely chat with a lady – Lorraine – who hasn’t even started blogging yet but is in the process of setting one up. Just goes to show that you should never be afraid to just get out there and do it!
Giving was certainly the order of the day. Catherine very sweetly gave us all a card to take away, on the proviso that we use it to thank someone – NOT her though, she said! – and that really was a lovely thought. Sharing gratitude.
I do love a well turned out foot! Nicky of Midlife Chic and Catherine posing with their shoes!
I had spied Nicky’s shoes from across the room and knew immediately they were from Finery (another relatively new UK brand). How did I know? Because I had thought of buying them myself.
We’re such ladies of taste!
After lunch there was briefly time for more chatting. Being a conscientious blogger I sought out Michelle from The Barefaced Chic as on twitter, Catherine had played match maker between us. Michelle was so friendly and said, that she had been looking out for me and had wondered where I was!
We were joined by Lizzie of What Lizzie Loves and Lisa of The Sequinist. The ladies were comparing bracelets that Lizzie had kindly given but for some reason my bag didn’t contain one. I happened to mention this in passing and without blinking an eye, Lizzie immediately and very kindly gave me hers!
And it couldn’t have been a better one! Leopard print! So very me. Thank you Lizzie.
We then gravitated to seats for a presentation by Nayna founder and owner of Hope Fashion a relatively new UK brand, with a focus on providing easy, wearable pieces for mainly but not exclusively the 40+ woman.
There I am, glass in hand, second row. Would you believe I actually dropped my camera lense cover in the glass at one point, when I went to stand up to take a photo! You’d think by now I’d be less cack-handed especially being a Pilates teacher! In my defence, I’m getting used to using my newish DSLR camera which is much bigger than my old point and shoot!
Kindly, a young chap who was taking photos for the event lent over to give me some napkins so I could dry the lens cover! I think my face was as red as my rose!
Down in the front row, Yvonne from Funky Forty, wearing her specs looks ever so studious as she’s no doubt furiously recording all the tips and bon mots she’d picked up so far!
Here’s Greetje and Jane of Pure and Me.
Greetje’s gorgeous yellow coat was quite the talk of the meet with everyone admiring it and why not? She looked beautiful and elegant in it.
Nayna was such an engaging speaker – she has a very natural way with words that totally drew you in. It was fascinating to hear the story of the brand – the name is Nayna’s Mum name. Listening to Hope’s story brought the brand alive. Tellingly, all the key people, including Nayna are over 40 themselves, so they really are and understand the women they are wanting to reach.
Nayna’s background is steeped in fashion from early childhood to her days working for Marks&Spencer. She explained how they have relationships with factories in the UK – a key selling point potentially I feel for many customers wanting to support UK brands and how they’re trying to bridge the gap that so many retailers can’t seem to fill.
She encouraged questions from her audience so I was able to ask how they catered for petites. Well, Nayna herself isn’t that much taller than me – so she’s a petite too! They offer a free – yup a free – tailoring service for their trousers – music to my ears – and some of their dress lengths are suitable for petites. Nayna is wearing one of her own dresses and the length was perfect on her.
Jaquine, of Hope, modelling their Silk Asymmetric Top. I love how she’s matched the orange of her vest top with the neck scarf!
I would’ve loved to have asked her where her name comes from, it’s so unusual.
The amazingly long legged Lizzie of What Lizzie Loves beautifully modelling her Hope trousers she wore to the event.
Afterwards, I was able to have a brief word with Nayna to thank her for her talk. I said had she thought of doing a vlog for the brand’s website as she was such an eloquent speaker and she said that funnily enough her team had been gently nudging her to do one!
I can’t wait to see it when it happens!
Nayna and Yvonne of Funky Forty.
After the talk, there was time to try and shop! Everyone dived in as you can see, eager to try the pieces on display.
The lady with the stunning long locks with her back to us is Lisa of The Sequinist who wore a gorgeous, geometric patterned dress which I had my eye on!
To the left of her next to Suzi is Alice from Fairy Blog Mother. Alice was one of the ladies I found and followed when I first started thinking about blogging and although I’m on blogger, she does (uber useful) tips and training for Word Press, which I still find uber useful.
She probably didn’t have a clue who I was but nonetheless I was able to tell her how much I liked her blog – passing the blog love around, as one should! She was so sweet and asked about my blog and what platform I was on and did I love blogging. We had a giggle about how both of us could very easily blog all day in our pyjamas and never get anything else done! She even kindly offered to help me when I’m ready to progress to moving platforms.
The day really was turning out to be one of caring and sharing.
Did I buy anything? No but I did try on this Linen Kimono Jacket and the Linen Asymmetrical Dress that Nayna was wearing. I could easily see myself wearing each of them. The quality and finish can’t be faulted. However, being honest, my clothing budget doesn’t quite extend to some of their prices so if I do buy in the future will be have to be as an investment piece. But looking at Hope’s overall style, I think the clothes are exactly that – timeless, classic pieces that would be staples in your wardrobe so watch this space!
Here’s Greetje again, looking fabulous in one of their pale teal jumpers. Doesn’t it just suit her to a tee? I told her she should buy it and she did!
And then we had to have our picture taken together. Being Dutch she towers over me but I’m used to that. You see, I’m married to a Dutchman and Tall Brown Fox is well, exactly that – Tall!
It was so lovely connecting with Greetje and the next time we’re over in The Netherlands, I hope to meet with her. She’s just as funny, engaging and straight talking in real life as she is on her blog.
Suzi and Catherine plotting world blogging domination!
Suzi was the first person to follow me on twitter so it was really special we met and chatted. And yes, I did tell her she was my first follower and she gave me the biggest bear hug!
As a fellow specs wearer, I’m very jealous of her amazing shades and how well they go with her dress! Apparently they are vintage frames. Top tip from Suzi – she buys the frames and then puts prescription lenses in them. Brilliant!
The spirit in the room was just so giving and friendly.
And talking of giving, you remember that goody bag I mentioned?
I went home laden with gifts, thanks to the sponsors! I shall endeavour to add links later. I’m on holiday in Denmark at the moment and don’t have all the details with me!
Is it a box with a ring inside? Not quite… but almost. Definitely circular!
Two delicious macaroons which I managed to resist eating (did I have a temperature that day), until after I got home from teaching my two evening Pilates classes.
There was also a raffle and the prize was a beautiful bag – sadly I wasn’t able to take a snap of it – generously donated by Jennifer of Jennifer Hamley. Her bags are beautiful and I do believe the lucky winner was Amanda from Ginger Mum. The raffle raised a grand total of £190 – which goes to The Brain Tumour Charity.
But the piece de resistance was the gift from Hope. Each of us had a individually wrapped and addressed package…
… with a personal thank you from Nayna…
… and inside was a beautiful merino and cashmere blend Poncho Knit in the most gorgeous fuchsia pink – a colour that is just SO, SO, ME!
Before I left, I just had time to pose for a snap with Catherine and to thank her for a truly memorable day. I really did leave, skipping down the Fulham Road.
And thanks to the lovely Jaquine for taking the snap. And yet more thanks to Greetje for sending me this photo she took just as we had taken ours!
And when I did get home, I had the final task of clearing up the mess I’d made from the morning when I threw my original outfit out the window and had to find something else to wear!
This, dear readers, is often the reality! The behind the scenes look at what goes on in a bloggers life!
If I could take away one thing from the day it was this – GENEROSITY.
The generosity of Catherine in organising and hosting the event. I have an insight into what goes on behind the scenes when planning an event like this. In my old job I often planned and co-ordinated events for anything between 150-300 people, so I can honestly say to Catherine, hats off to you, my lovely, for making sure everything ran like a well oiled machine on the day.
The generosity of the sponsors, including Hope for giving us all our goody bags and beautiful ponchos.
The generosity of the team at The Imperial who looked after us.
But finally, the generosity of all the ladies present.
Events can be planned down to the minutest of details but it’s often the people AT the event who can make it or break it. There was genuinely so much laughter and happiness in the room on the day – yes, I know it sounds so saccharine but it’s true.
The size of the event was perfect. Just enough people there to create a great atmosphere but not so many that it lost its intimacy. There were so many ladies I didn’t get a chance to talk to but in some ways that’s no bad thing.
You always want to leave wanting more. And I’ve some wonderful memories, new friends, new connections, more blogging fun to be had. How special that from starting a blog almost a year ago, I’ve gone from reading some amazing blogs to actually meeting those bloggers in real life.
The beneficial side of the internet which often gets overlooked.
What an event to pop my blogger meet cherry on!
Here’s to my next one!
Blogger Meet Footnote – Have Poncho, Will Travel
This week I’m in Copenhagen celebrating my 50th birthday on 1st June! I packed my Hope Poncho and here it’s having its first outing on an evening stroll. Excuse the poor picture quality; we’d forgotten to take the camera with us so we had to take it on the mobile!
We’re off to the ballet the night before the big day as a birthday treat from Tall Brown Fox to the Royal Danish Opera House, no less. A fitting venue to show off my new poncho again, me thinks! And hopefully we’re remember to take the camera this time for better photos.