Champagne buckets full of love and ladlefuls of tears

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
The Ceremony began and so very many of my favourite bloggers won awards, you can read the full list here, including two other Cornish bloggers Coombe Mill (Best Family Fun) and Frugal Queen (Best Food Blog) and fellow Down's Syndrome advocate Tom from The Futures Rosie who took home Best New Blog. I couldn't have been prouder. I stood to clap as he collected his trophy which he dedicated to Rosie.

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

Instead of simply reading out the winner's name, we were then all invited to the stage.

Alexander Residence because her videos are hysterical and THAT’S the way to raise money for charity. Penny works very hard on her blog and putting PRs in touch with other bloggers. She has a wealth of knowledge and is never too busy to share it.
Childcare is Fun because Fiona’s blog offers a free parenting advice service through which Fiona tirelessly answers dozens of queries a day. When she’s not blogging, Fiona organizes charity fun days for Save the Children, runs marathons for charity and is helping to organise a fundraising programme for baby Noah, who was born with Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus.
Dorky Mum because no cause is too small for Ruth to promote on her blog, and she always does it so eloquently. Ruth’s constant, unrelenting belief that change can and will happen is joyous, and her support of campaigns from Save the Children is deeply inspiring.
Downs Side Up has worked miracles for awareness of Down’s Syndrome in a very short time. Hayley has a gentle way of saying important things that help change perceptions, making us feel a part of her fight.
Edspire because in the face of terrible loss, Jennie has found the strength to support other families by raising awareness of SIDS and beginning to fundraise for charities that help families suffering the loss of a baby.  Beyond this, Jennie continues to be a fantastic mum to toddler twins, with inspiring crafts and fun activities.
Kate on Thin Ice because Kate is an understated force for change, quietly boosting the mojo of Mums via her blog and regular Twitter chats and parties, and regularly helping to raise awareness for charities online.
Mummy from the Heart because she goes out of her way to support and offer advice to new bloggers, on her blog, and through conversations on Facebook and Twitter. A busy Mum, Michelle isn’t afraid to step back from blogging to keep a healthy balance with her real life and family.
Not Even A because Kylie is an absolute rock for Mums in the premature baby community, generous with her time and advice. Kylie campaigns tirelessly for Bliss and baby charities to raise awareness of neo-natal care, and has inspired bloggers in the past year by overcoming huge adversity and still sharing support with other members of the community.
Patch of Puddles because Merry is helpful and supportive to so many in the blogging community, especially those who have lost babies.  When she isn’t home-educating her children and running a business, Merry works tirelessly with charity, bringing together bloggers to sponsor children with World Vision.
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.

And then there was Mr Mozzarella, an impossibly bouncy chef from the Just Eat adverts who seemed to have more than just a passing penchant for blogging Mummies all dressed up to the nines, pictured above with Louise Turner of All The Camping Gear. But the giggles were a welcome contrast to the high and draining emotion of the day.

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.

H x


  1. What a lovely MADs re-cap! For someone who says they struggle to put names to faces you made a wonderful job of recalling the night in all its glory! x That award is something to be so proud ;) I cried through the whole of that section I'm not ashamed to say ;) so touching xx Thanks for remembering me this time ;) (lol) Here's to many more spanx-laden events! xxx Fab post ;)

    1. Haha! But I ihad time to revise when I got home ;)
      Spanx rule (sadly I have bought a cheap TU imitation that rode up past my unspeakables...)

  2. Aww! Lovely post!!
    Looks like you had am amazing time & well done for being a finalist!! x

  3. Fabulous round-up, what a great night. Lets do it all again soon! Mich x

    1. Wasn't it brilliant on so many levels. So lovely to have shared that time with you M x

  4. hayley i had the most wonderful time sitting with you michelle, tom and dr ranj. i especially loved the moment when you realised you knew who i was, you are the one and only darling my darling x

    1. What am I like! Way too old for blogging I say ;)

  5. Ah that's a lovely post. I think Jason was besotted with you - that's what you get for being so lovely :) Go on though, admit it, you weren't campaigning in Dr Ranj's ear at all were you...? ;)

    1. Ah what a wonderful family you are. Dr R, well I was but perhaps he did arouse the inner cougar in me! LOL

  6. A brilliant read, so many mentions, so many special moments. It was an amazing night and the outstanding contribution section was THE awards of the night! So pleased to have a chance to catch up with you. Hoping we manage the next meet up here at Coombe Mill.

    1. It was such a proud and wonderful evening for us all. Always lovely to meet up and to this time here the story of your wonderful babies. Much love H x

  7. What a wonderful film. And wonderful women. Sounds like you had a truly fabulous well-deserved evening, Hayley xx

  8. Fabulous post as ever, loved it, just didn't love not catching up with you much :( good job we both had fun anyway ;) see you soon and I'll hound you down then ;)

    1. I think I was in the wrong bar to begin with! Never enough time lovely lady. H x

  9. What a truly fabulous post. Felt like I was there. As for that video: humbling, breath-taking.... wow! Lump in my throat. You are a sterling bunch of loveliness and awesomeness and what a super idea for every one of you to get to take home the glass trophy. So very well deserved. Sounds like a truly magical night.
    Hugs, Liska x

    1. You too Liska. Bloggers really are changing the world in so many ways, very proud to be a part of that. H x

  10. Hayley, it was such a thrill to meet you properly, and you were such a fab and well-deserved finalist. I'm glad you enjoyed the night and hopefully we'll meet again soon :)

    1. You too Sally. And once again thank you from the bottom of my heart (and apologies for not knowing who you were at Legoland. I really am too old for this lark, lol.)


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