Way back on Mother's Day this year I sat alone in my kitchen and sobbed at the news that a panel of judges had chosen me as one of 10 bloggers who had been noted for their Outstanding Contribution
I cried with pride, I cried with surprise, I cried with tiredness, I cried for the way we have yet to go.
The months passed and I grew excited for the glitzy, star-studded evening at the Royal Kensington Garden Hotel, hosted by Sally Whittle and her team at the MAD Blog Awards, Tots 100 and Parentdish.
As the day dawned, I dusted off my fave shoes and dress and I caught my train from Cornwall to London. I revelled in the quiet solitude and absence of internet. It was enforced relaxation.
I was looking forward to meeting some of my favourite bloggers again, my gurus and inspirations, and getting to know new ones over a glass of wine. The prospect of finishing a sentence without interruption is always an exciting thought as a parent too.
But my mind could never move far from Jennie Henley of Edspire. I wondered how she would find the strength to attend the event which she was doing in honour of Matilda Mae. I worried about her health as she faces a miscarriage. But I knew she would have friends to hold her up as she collected the award we all hoped so fervently she would win, but I worried none the less.
After a freshen up on arrival in the Big Smoke, I met lovely supportive Kate of Kate On Thin Ice in our hotel bar and we shared a little snifter and an appraisal of all that is great about blogging before catching a taxi to the venue together. (Well, it's hard to walk all of 500 yards in pink patent stiletto heels... )
As we entered the foyer my nerves rose as I remembered my inability to match the real names to the blog names and faces as well as avatar images of all the writers present. I am, after all, the one who asked Sally Whittle if she was a blogger at the Legoland Winsor day out. I hang my head in shame. (Sorry Sally!)
My tactic of simply gushing "Hello daaarling" at everyone worked though, and the lovely young bloggers who we joined just giggled at my cluelessness. Someone made my evening by saying I could be excused my failings as I'm so nice!
I really enjoyed the company of the funny Sarah Grenglish and WallyMummy who write Just a Normal Mummy and the oh so sweet Filipa from Gourmet Mum in the bar and I was so honoured to meet Actually Mummy's beautiful family and got chatting to her gem of a husband. The conversations about changing the world of paediatrics had started.
It was time!
Time to go to the Awards amongst a bussle of excited chat about hair, shoes and dresses and make-up along the red carpet (and that was just the men!) and onto a photo shoot and a glass of bubbles with the simply gorgeous Dr Ranj from CBeebies.
I took the moment to whisper in his ear and ask him if he was a real doctor (he is) and tell him that Downs Side Up works with the NHS to improve the delivery of diagnosis of Down's Syndrome. No time the present to push for that change...
Unfortunately the leaning forward and whispering looked like I was accosting the poor man. Ooops!
I was delighted to be sitting next to Michelle from Mummy from the Heart, who is gorgeous inside and out, a real hoot, and who made me eat more risotto "to soak up my wine." Very sensible. We giggled with Tom, Dr Ranj and Vanessa from HPMcQ, who I described as a priceless cross between Anthea Turner and Amy Winehouse.
I was completely rubbish at taking enough photos on the night because, well, I just got stuck in chatting mode, but here's a selfie of Michelle and I.
|Photography by Tom Arber|
Look What Love Has Done
The final category of the evening came, that of Outstanding Contribution and we were all stunned into silence which very quickly turned to tears and quiet sobs as a beautiful film was shown highlighting the work that each and every one of those women had selflessly done. I couldn't believe I was named amongst those who had fundraised on a gigantic scale, travelled the world helping others, given of themselves for free, supported women to get through the most difficult of times, raised awareness of SIDS and other medical conditions, issues surrounding premature birth, brought political fights to the fore, campaigned in parliament, the list goes on.
I hadn't set out to do any of that in the beginning, but Natty, Downs Side Up, the Down's Syndrome community had taken me on its own, organic journey.
|All photography by Tom Arber|
Thinly Spread because Christine is the parent we’d all like to be – intelligent, unflappable, and barely a hair out of place. But also because Christine balances blogging and blog activism perfectly, producing amazing words and gorgeous images into the bargain. She’s like the wise brown owl of the blogging world!
The tears flowed. Some held it together more than I, but to the stage we went, all conscious of Jennie, how much more emotional than the rest of us she would be feeling. I thought of Dorky Mum and Kylie from Not Even a Bag of Sugar who could not be there. I could feel their presence too. I thought of all the causes we held close in our hearts, the lives of all those that had been touched along the way.
As they read out Jennie's name as the winner, I watched her beautiful face crumble into what looked more like grief than pride, for that award must have been so very bitter sweet for her, her husband, her twins. We all stood, holding hands, hugging, touching shoulders, in a moment of shared consciousness that is hard to describe. It was like a group hug that sent a special force back towards Jennie.
Then another surprise. Another reason for more tears.
Every one of the writers in that category was to receive a special award, a precious glass reminder of why we have to carry on, to be the change we wish to see in the world for our children.
Thank you to everyone who made the evening so very special. It is one I will never forget. Thank you to everyone who has read and loved my blog. Thank you to everyone who voted for it. Thank you to everyone who strives with me for a fully inclusive society and who works for better provision for childen with SEN in schools. Thank you to those who have dropped their fear of Down's Syndrome and instead swapped it for marvel at the beauty of Natty and her fellow models with disabilities. And thank you to everyone who shares my shock at how our civilised society can allow terminations up to and including during birth for babies like my daughter, for hers is a life worth living.
Then Came the Fun Part
|Photography by Tom Arber (with the exception of the blurry ones that I took on my phone!)|
Afterwards there was a more relaxed feel to the evening. Wine flowed and music played and some even found their way on to a bouncy surfboardy type affair. I floated happily from one writer to the next and was particularly fond of my chats with beautiful Cakes Photos Life and her husband, Rock Chick Alice My Son My Life My Way, the superbly, hilariously tipsy Childcare is Fun and the completely genuinely caring My Two Mums. Actually Mummy looked divine in a furry leopard print onesie, the hilarious antedote to her earlier floor length gown.
I returned to my hotel at Pumpkin O'Clock, happy, uplifted, tired, full, extremely proud, feeling inspired... and with a glowing bruise on my elbow caused by a dancing collision with Mr Mozzarella's ladle and the note to myself never to wear unfeasibly tight magic underwear again, for it riseth up.