Armed with a spanking new Sat Nav that Ian had bought for me especially for the journey, and with my co-driver Louise, I was raring to go. Apart from the trauma of leaving my breastfeeding boy I was eager to take the bull by the horns and test out my newfound independence!
The three and a half hour journey from Shropshire to London was made all the more entertaining by Hyundai's challenges that had been set for all six of the carshare cars, and more satisfying due to the hamper of goodies that kept us going whilst navigating the M6! The car itself was a joy to drive...my first foray into the automatic car market was something I thoroughly enjoyed. The car was responsive, powerful and the steering was light for such a big 7 seater 4x4 vehicle!
Finding a parking space in Central London was a bit hair raising, and we ended up in a scary place up a narrow, steep ramp in the back of beyond. But we had made it!
The Hoxton Hotel was a very modern and funky affair. My room was amazing with modern decor and a huge bathroom with wet room. Once I worked out the I needed to put the keycard into a slot by the door to activate the electricity I was fine (till then it was a bit dark!)
Being on my own for the first time in years was not at all scary. I have really grown through the miracle of blogging!
We spent the evening with Sandy Calico and her dinner guests at a little Italian Pizzeria. Bar being given bad directions and walking in the London rain for half an hour longer than we needed to, with Lou in her spiked heel party shoes, we made the rendez-vous to meet with some old friends and make some new ones! We were slightly bedraggled but as soon as the food arrived all was well in the world! Our first goodie bag, courtesy of Sandy, was very impressive! Walking back to the hotel resulted in poor Lou's feet bleeding...my Converse may not have looked as sexy, but my feet were unscathed!
The night spent alone in the crisp white sheeted luxury of the Hoxton bed was devoid of any sleep. I'm just not used to being free from the high alert state of wakefulness that co-sleeping creates. However, it was a very comfortable sleepless night!
Next morning we took a black cab to the Brewery and felt very official with our lanyard and name card. We had to go to hand in our Hyundai keys at their stand first thing, and the seductive nature of the other brands with their giveaway goodies and friendly banter was quite addictive. Chatting to the PR ladies at Crocs, Butlins, the Portland Hospital and E45 made us lose all track of time, and before we knew it we had totally missed the opening speeches and Sarah Brown's Keynote speech. Oops...note to self....buy a watch!! I had no idea of the time but the lack of bloggers really should have given it away! I was gutted to have missed the highlight of the morning....and pretty sad to have missed the Dodo Pads which were given away on the tables. But this faux pas is very typically me.
We attended a Facebook and Twitter Workshop (we meant to attend a different one about marketing your brand but again, it is typical of me to go to the wrong place!!) However it was imformative and I learnt all about bitly.
I also attended the Working With Brands workshop which was really informative and interesting (except for the last speaker...sorry, the sociology of parenting just wasn't a good fit to the proceedings. Apologies if our sneaking out was offensive!)
It was an incredibly exhausting day, but coffee, chocolates, pop, smoothies and other goodies (Johnson's Baby Cupcakes were so divine!) were on hand for caffeine or sugar hits when the energy levels sapped. I was very good and ate next to nothing naughty....but with Sandra from Thinking Slimmer there, I wouldn't be anything other than virtuous would I! She was as lovely and supportive in real life as she has been in the virtual world! Meeting Trevor, the voice of the Slimpods, was a particular highlight of my day....he has been "with me" on and off since last November, helping me lose weight and keep on the dieting straight and narrow. (And he smelt really nice!)
The final crowd sourced speeches were a wonderful way to round up the official proceedings. There were a range of subjects covered from the incredibly moving story of childhood cancer to the hilarious story of vibrator disposal. They really showed the diversity of the blogosphere, which to me is its beauty.
Most of all to me, it was meeting the wonderful women from behind the words, that made Cybermummy 11 the wonderful experience it was. Catching up with Blog Buddies from previous events was fabulous. Having a laugh with Emma my fellow Graco Ambassador was such fun. Meeting the lovely Mumentum ladies including Liska , was a wonderful way to put faces to the names of the supportive bunch who have encouraged me along my weightloss journey. Sitting with Working London Mummy who I first met through the Brit Mums Comment Group, as we watched Boris Johnson's sister get a bit of verbal abuse from the floor was memorable! Super Amazing Mum lived up to her moniker...when we first met in the virtual world last year, due to both being finalists in the same national competition, we would never have believed our blogging would have lead to us both meeting at the biggest UK conference for Mummy Bloggers. There are too many other people to mention by name, but I loved meeting everyone on my 'must meet' list. I was just sad that I didn't get to meet Kate Takes 5...but I saw her up on stage, so that will have to suffice.
I was delighted, humbled and overjoyed when people recognised me and wanted to talk to me. I felt proud of myself and my blog, and a little incredulous that I was actually at a conference in London, unthinkable just 9 months ago!
To top off a fabulous day, I won the top prize in the Cybermummy Prize Draw and will be off to a hotel with the family as a result. I was thrilled to bits!
We drove home afterwards and arrived back in Shropshire at 1am...knackered but in a good way. My baby boy and his daddy were sound asleep in our bed. Freddy woke up at 5am and I couldn't have been more delighted to see my little man because by this time I was actually crying with intense boob pain from not feeding him for over 36 hours. I hadn't anticipated just how bad I would feel...weaning by cold turkey would have worked for him, but not for me. I had rock hard boobs and lumps in my armpits that made my toes curl with cringy agony! But I am starting the gradual process of weaning him now, knowing that he can cope without breastfeeding during the day. Another step on my journey begins.
Cybermummy 2011 was an experience I am delighted to have had and I am grateful to Graco and Hyundai for making it all so possible!