This past weekend was the Tots 100 Christmas Party, an event held down at Butlins in Bognor Regis where loads of UK-based Mummy Bloggers hit the resort in an effort to network and celebrate the awesome power of blogging.
The event was organised by the lovely Sally Whittle, who I must admit was not nearly so scary as I had imagined (I have an inherent fear of authority figures, real or perceived), and with the generosity of several companies (including Butlins, Aldi, Bollywood Christmas, and Hallmark UK) she created a fun and memorable event for all.
We started with a Meet and Greet session at 2pm where we all met up in the conference centre for coffee, snacks and a natter. When I first arrived, there weren’t a huge amount of women there, but my social phobias reared up, and I found myself sitting by myself away from everyone. But it wasn’t long before like found like and the OTHER American ex-pat in the room came up and started to chat. Squidgyboo was a blogger I hadn’t really been exposed to before, but having met her and seen how lovely she is, I am now a big fan.
Once the event got going, we were split into groups of four and forced to go head-to-head in the ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS TREE DECORATING CHALLENGE!
Our group got stuck with a white tree, which we did our best to deck out in blues and silver. We found it a bit of a difficulty creating that festive atmosphere, but after
stealing borrowing various baubles, napkins and tablecloths from the conference centre, we created a lovely tableau, complete with a totally original tree topper in the form of a stuffed dalmatian we made into a red-nosed angel. Unfortunately, our efforts were bested by another team who had hand-threaded hundreds of cranberries into their very own tree garland. Mad props to you guys, as your bloody fingers were proof of your dedication to the craft.
The afternoon also included a blind fondle of several hidden items inside a big box. Each blogger was to write down the 12 items they could feel and the winners would receive a lovely Christmas hamper. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to participate, focused as I was on the task of tree-decorating.
Eventually we were let loose from the conference with instructions to meet up later at Bar Rosso for some pre-dinner cocktails, where the fun was REALLY sure to get started.
At 7:30, I kissed my boys goodbye and headed over to join the fun. As some of us were earlier than others, we wound up buying our own drinks to start, and I indulged in a lovely glass of mulled wine, something I missed out on last Christmas due to being pregnant. I stood around with some fab women, chatting and trying to get as drunk as possible. Once more women arrived, we were treated to complimentary cocktails, in the form of a lovely Vodka Cranberry drink, which I heartily enjoyed, downing it in only a couple of sips. Yum.
It was so fab to get to know so many amazing women and to hear some of the crazy conversations which took place. Listening to Mammasaurus and Sally talk about the medium of blogging was enlightening, and I enjoyed getting to know Romanian Mum, a lovely lady I had not known of before this event.
In fact, while the rest of the group was finishing up their pre-dinner drinks, she and I headed over to Turner’s restaurant early so that we could indulge in a pre-dinner cigarette together. While we sat out in the cold, one of the Butlins crew, who had earlier been one of the judges of the tree-decorating task, came over and had a chat with us about our stay. I must say that all of the staff up to this point had been nothing but truly professional and accommodating. I can’t say enough about how fab they were!
Then, it was in to Turner’s for dinner. My table had some fabulous ladies on it. Apart from me there was Romanian Mum, Inside the Wendy House, QWERTY Mum, Wit Wit Woo and All About The Boys. I was astonished to find out (as were several others) that Wendy and QWERTY Mum were sisters! And vegetarians! Not that being a vegetarian is shocking, but it did prove a bit of a liability given the vegetarian offering from this supposedly fabulous restaurant. All the gals at our table wound up donating our unwanted veg to help feed the neglected sisters. For my part, I gave up my green beans. A hardship, of course, despite the fact that the smell of them makes me gag…
I think dinner, in and of itself, was a bit of a let down for all. The starter, a parsnip soup was okay, though the hidden nut in the middle of the dollop of cream DID nearly choke me to death. The main course was just okay, and I found myself only eating a few bites. Dessert, as most everyone has reported, was a total catastrophe. Some sort of spiced ice cream surrounded by…. prunes? Ick. No thank you.
Luckily there was a firm supply of wine available, and I helped myself to three glasses of the stuff, which made everything else go down smoothly.
After we’d all stuffed ourselves silly and filled in a Christmas-themed quiz (which now seems pointless, as I’m pretty sure they were all left behind on the table… despite me knowing all but one answer), the evening was over for most. But a hardy few of us gathered our reserves and stomped off to Jaks, the late night club at Butlins (conveniently located directly across the street from my hotel). The gossip was that since everything but Jaks closed at 11 PM, the joint would be hopping soon with all the staff which would be getting off work.
As soon as we arrived, Romanian Mum and I popped to the loo for a bit of
Charlie to get the night going ahem… a quick wee, before the lovely lady bought me a drink (a favour I never got to return in the end!) and we joined some of the girls for more fun.
Now some might have heard rumours to the effect that I may have got up on stage and danced for a few minutes before pulling on some of the other girls and all of us getting kicked off by the apparently quite foxy security man. Now, my memory is slightly hazy, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t true. Despite various photographs scattered throughout the interwebs of me ON said stage (alone AND with others), I maintain that I was a good girl who sat quietly in my corner, politely nodding while other naughty mummies did a fandango. And since my camera tells no lies, I will prove my point with photography. Notice how I’m not in a single one of these pictures!
After a lot of boogie-woogie-ing, unfortunately, my night was cut short when I started getting desperate texts from my fiance that Dexter was being a terror. Nothing would do except for mama milk, even if it was a bit of boozy-boob. So here is where I said my goodbyes, sad to leave all these wonderful ladies, and slightly worried about what they might get up to without my calming influence.
As I left, I stood outside the door to have a final cigarette before heading up to my room. I spoke with the bouncer, the man who had kicked me off the stage earlier.
Security Man: “So… are all those ladies mums?”
Me: “Pretty much, yep.”
Security Man: “They all married?”
Me: “Well, I think most are at least loved up with someone…”
Security Man: “You think I got a chance with the crazy one?”
Me: (pausing thoughtfully) “Fella. They’re all crazy.”
And with that, I tipped my invisible hat at him and made my way back to my boys.
Thanks again to Sally and Tots 100 for a FABULOUS weekend. And to all the amazing mummy bloggers I met. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Also – for anyone interested in the full set of photos, they are on facebook. I’ve made them public for now, but eventually I will lock them down. Feel free to have a look and tag yourself. If you want a copy of any of them, drop me a line or leave a comment.