“You’re going where for a Christmas party?!” was a very common response whenever I announced that I was heading off to Butlins at Bognor Regis for the Tots100 Christmas party. Yes, I know, it’s Butlins, and it’s also a very very long way away from my home in South Cheshire. However, having been to a few blogging events by now, I’ll go quite a long way for the chance to strengthen some friendships and forge new ones. Anywhere there is a group of bloggers there will be fun, laughter, silliness and perhaps a small amount of wine…
There were two things that got me down to Bognor Regis – the loaned Sedona that the lovely people at Kia UK provided us with, and the quite frankly amazingly wonderful Lindy who insisted on driving the whole way there and back, almost like my own personal chauffeur. Kia had provided a number of cars to ferry bloggers to Butlins, and we had the “Manchester” car. There were originally supposed to be more of us travelling together, however the other people had to back out, and we ended up with just the two of us rattling around an enormous seven-seater! It felt very lush indeed. Setting out early on Saturday morning we made excellent time, and arrived by the sea at Bognor Regis at lunchtime. We checked into our hotel room in the Ocean, and I was delighted to discover that we’d got a sea view. I must confess to feeling a slight pang of guilt that I’d left the rest of the family at home. The event had been open to families, and the hotel room was clearly designed with a family in mind, with separate sleeping area suitable for two kids, a reasonable main area, and (to my great delight) a balcony with table and chairs! But I reminded myself of the long journey, which would have been too long for the geekson, and reassured myself that I’d made the right decision.
Two events had been organised for the bloggers attending the weekend, and the first one was an afternoon coffee “meet and greet” session with what Sally Whittle promised would be ” completely dignified and mature activities”. I must confess that I was apprehensive – this is after all the woman who has managed to get me to post a video of my attempts to lick my own elbow on YouTube! In the end what she had set up for us was a Christmas tree decorating competition – we were split into 4 groups, provided with a huge quantity of tree decorations, and given an an hour to make our tree stand out more than the rest. We had a lovely time arranging lights, tinsel and baubles; wrapping presents, and even arranging a drink and some mince pies for Santa. The piece de resistance was Lindy who was amazingly patient and spent almost the whole time threading cranberries onto cotton. This resulted in (minor) injury for me when she stuck the needle into my elbow, and also resulted in a bleeding finger for her. The effort was all worth it, as our tree was judged to be the best, and apparently Aldi will be delivering lovely gift hampers for us all as our prize – lovely!
Once the tree decorating was finished we had some time to ourselves, and I took the opportunity to have a little look around the resort. I must say Butlins wasn’t really what I was expecting. I’d never been to one before, so I had a kind of “Hi-de-hi” mental picture about the whole thing. I was pleasantly surprised, and I know if I’d taken the geekdaughter with me that she would have thoroughly enjoyed it – there was a great selection of rides, activities, soft play and swimming that would be suitable for her age (4). After my explore I went back to the hotel room, and caught the first few dances in the Strictly Come Dancing semi final before it was time to meet the other bloggers for dinner.
A quick Christmas cocktail in Bar Rosso, and then we all traipsed over to Turners restaurant where head chef Nigel Davis (formerly of The Ivy you know!) produced a delicious three course meal for us. I was interested to learn that Brian Turner started his career at Butlins in Bognor Regis, hence the restaurant that bears his name. I’m always a little apprehensive being served a set menu, but I had no need to worry – the parsnip soup, traditional turkey dinner and fruit with ice cream were safe choices, but at the same time well-cooked and tasty. During the meal I enjoyed geeking out with Daddcool, and chatting with Lindy and Amy Lane. We were all sat at two tables with a divider between them, which made it tricky to chat with other bloggers, and although I did attempt to get up and chat with some of those I don’t know so well, I didn’t manage brilliantly.
After the meal some of the “youngsters” headed on to another bar for some dancing, but I retired to the hotel bar for a more relaxed gossip. At about midnight the staff started hinting that they’d like us to go to bed, by switching the lights on and off, so I bid everyone goodnight and retired to bed.
I am discovering more and more that attending blogging events is a little like getting married. You spend time in a room, surrounded by friends, and yet you still wake up the following morning and curse that you didn’t get a chance to speak to Auntie Mabel… In my case I really wanted to say more than just the “hello” I managed with Joanne Mallon, and I didn;t even manage to say hello to The Boy and Me. I still don’t have a good association between people’s names, Twitter names, blog names and appearance, and so I have found myself seeing tweets after the event and saying to myself “oh no! Was she there too?!”. Next time, ladies, next time.
Thanks so much to Sally, Tots100 and Butlins for putting on such a great event, to Kia for providing transport to get us there in style, and to Lindy for doing all that driving and being a great room-mate. I hope it’s not too long until the next event like this (BlogCampUK anyone?)