You can read about the truly inspirational day I had at Mumsnet Blogfest in a separate post (yet to be published). The goody bags were so good they’ve earned themselves their own post. Read on…

It was a day I didn’t want to start because every minute that passed was taking us closer to the finish and it was really the end I wanted to avoid. But end it must and knowing that there was a goody bag for everyone attending Blogfest made the parting that bit sweeter.

Already, I wasn’t going home empty-handed. I’d picked up a nifty first aid kit for kids from The Portland Hospital stand. I’d pocketed an oven mitt stamped with cautionary advice from Savoo – ‘Don’t get burnt paying full price’. And I had a copy of The Times to pore over on my train journey home. But I knew there was more to come.

The goody bags had been alluded to a couple of times during the day. I’d clocked the list of top-notch sponsors at the event so set my expectations high. The modest looking eco-friendly cotton sacks sat on the bar near the cloakroom and were bulging at the seams. I flung mine over my shoulder as I took my leave from Altitude 360. My head was buzzing with ideas, twitter soundbites and blog posts. I’d wait until the train to open my bag. I could feel the sharp corner of a book prod in to my side and when I moved I caught the scent of pears.

As I walked over Vauxhall bridge I spotted another woman with a Blogfest bag swinging by her side. I hastened my pace and at the traffic lights we chatted about Blogfest because we could as fellow goodie-bag bearers.
Once I boarded my train, I found myself the perfect seat in a fairly sparse carriage. The aroma from my Blogfest bag had intensified. Intoxicated and heady, I’d been patient for long enough! And my, what a spectacle awaited me. The lid from Lush’s snow fairy shower gel had somehow dislodged and the pink liquid coated my goodies. The candy floss and pear infused liquid promises to transport you back to childhood. And it did as I felt like my eight-year old daughter who regularly has these sticky moments. How distressing and where to start? All these wonderful gifts in jeopardy.

Fast action was required. For my salvage op I had a packet of pocket tissues and a bottle of water. What a folly. The water and gel combined to make a suds and bubble fiasco as the smell filled the carriage and transported the few fellow passengers back to their childhoods too. Nice for them.

A bemused observer on his Saturday night our whipped the napkin from his burger and offered it to me. I didn’t look up as I was handed a plastic bag. All assistance was gratefully accepted and promptly put to use. The Bonne Maman seasonal cookbook came off the best, not a drop fell its way. Though snow fairy is infused in its pages. Now a childhood transporter as well as a cookbook. The Bloggess memoir will have the same effect but that’s no bad thing especially in a memoir.

The Times had pre-empted my fiasco with a plastic wrapper on its note pad and Parker pen. Boden had taken similar precautions. At any rate their present being an umbrella and therefore shower proof, I wouldn’t have to worry. I did pause however to admire the clever print on its fabric. London scene, Big Ben, House of Parliament. Beefeaters. Definitely a pick-up for a rainy day. I worked hard to save the stretch mark fader – though having neither welts nor plans to extend my family I’d no need for it. But I know someone who does. San Tropez moisturiser was easily mopped down and Nails inc lives on to polish my nails. Sanctuary spa samples will get used too.

Sadly, the Green and Black chocolates didn’t make it. But they were the only real casualties. I couldn’t be sure if Divine’s white chocolate with strawberries was meant to have a pear and popcorn kick. Tasted nice though.

I was glad of the first aid kit. I used all four wash swabs to clean myself up. It had taken the entire journey to restore my goody bag stash. Home again, I walked down my street as the night air hit my haul sealing the items with the candy scent I now associate with childhood ….and Blogfest.

now squeaky clean

Of the orange family

Of the orange family

This morning DH took his colour swatches out and matched a strand of my hair to a Pantone colour.   Not nice. 

My husband’s screen saver is a picture of the galaxy. My eight year old daughter wondered who took the photograph and that started her on a stream of thought that ended with this…

‘They should send a woman up in a shuttle. She can have a baby so that when she grows old and can no longer send good photos back to earth, her daughter can start taking pics. Then she gets old but first has a baby daughter who takes over. Until infinity.’

She stalled for a moment before adding ‘make that two women…just in case the one we send up has a son.’

Oh dear!

It’s my birthday on November 12 and DH offered to get me a PAIR of boots. I need them and with no income of my own right now, I don’t have £150 for the purchase so I planned on graciously accepting. Then I hear about Mumsnet BlogFest. As I’m really hoping to develop my embryonic blog, I feel attendance there could be the motivator I need. But tickets are £75.
There’s loose change in my redundancy payment but I can’t sanction that spend either. It’s earmarked for emergencies. So my husband gives me a choice, the boots or the Mumsnet ticket. When I point out the discrepancy in cost, the choice is amended to Mumsnet ticket and one boot versus the complete pair of tan leather boots. My web search for ‘Mumsnet BlogFest free ticket’ yields gold. For one lucky blogger at any rate. Give as you live is offering a ticket in return for being their person on the ground that day. I might be able to have my cake and eat it too.

Here’s my case….

The time has come for me to step away from the shadows and ‘out’ myself as a blogger. I’ve got a back catalogue of over thirty posts. I haven’t felt brave enough to compose my ‘About’ section yet and only recently made it searchable, safe in the knowledge that Mahoganysoup isn’t going to be something many (any) will trip across. In real life I am an extrovert and sociable with an open door policy to my home – I’d like to extend that reception to my virtual presence. Come visit my site. Drop in for a browse or a comment.

I’d like to meet fellow bloggers – many who I check in to regularly and who brighten my day. I know I’ll be inspired and encouraged. I’d love to hear Caitlin Moran, Natasha Walters, Jeanette Winterson and the others. I need tips on SEO and would welcome an audience with Social media experts.

Having just discovered Give as you live, I’d be proud of the association and would happily tweet and blog on their behalf.

And wouldn’t Altitude 360 be the perfect first outing for my new boots.

I chose MacMillan Cancer as my charity of choice. Nursing is truly a vocation and by giving to this charity I want to enable their nurses to continue to help people in their time of need.

My favourite retailer would probably be Boden and I was heartened to see that 2.5% of the purchase price goes to our chosen charities.

Maybe it’s because I’m not doing so well in the present that lately I find myself engaging with my past.
Last week I got a friend invite on Facebook from someone I picked apples with in orchards on the West Coast of Australia over 21 years ago. We were paid for what we picked. Megan could climb and strip a tree in a matter of minutes. She would fill five massive trailer carts with granny smith apples in the time it took me to load two. We’d work a 12 hour day on the apple farm before hitching back to our hostel to munch/bake/stew/barter the fruit of our labour. Apples were our currency. Looking back now, I see just how wealthy we really were. We stayed in touch for a while and I wasn’t surprised to hear that she had joined the fire service. She was amused to hear from me that I’m now allergic to apples (Oral allergy syndrome). She remembered me as someone I’d like to be again – fun, hopeful and energetic.

At least once a year I write to my best pal from my secondary school days when I remember her birthday in September. Yesterday I had a newsy response by email from her. I had berated myself for not being especially productive so there was little progress to report on sorting myself out. She consoled me with tales of her work sloth.

And then this…
When visiting my parents home a couple of years I found some cards and letters addressed to me in an old bag stored in the attic. Even without the stamp I would have recognised the hand-writing as that of my old university flatmate, Kit.

Kit was a couple of years older than us, her classmates, and to an innocent 18 year-old who grew up in the country, Kit was from another world, as well as a different continent. For starters she had a car. There were few if any undergraduates driving back then. The insurance costs made it prohibitive to any but the well-off. She was Canadian and talked about snow ploughs in winter and the freezing temperatures they endured. That in someway explained why Kit wore a full length fur coat to lectures. It was refrigerated for half the year. But even i wasn’t green enough to think all cold Canadians summoned their furs come winter. Kit was loud, brash, irreverent, fearless, and fun to be around.
She was like a mama to myself and our other flatmate. This letter was signed off from “Big Mother”.

The letter was written when Kit was 21 and in Canada recovering from a tonsilectomy and reading it now offers a glimpse at forgotten times. Who knows what my reply might have covered but well over two decades later I did send another letter to the address on the envelope. It was returned. The family no longer at that house. I had tried google and Facebook but with no success. Yesterday, when de-cluttering (as past of my clear house makes for a clear mind) I spotted the canary yellow envelope again. And I read it once more. So when I came across her line about a brother trying to set her up with a law student pal of his, I ran another search, this time on him.
Straightaway I found someone who practices family law, about the right age and his portrait shot reminded me of Kit. So I whizzed off a brief email to him and within minutes he outed himself as her brother promising to forward the email to his sister.
Minutes later again and I hear back from Kit herself! Excited at being found, she hurried her reply and promised pictures and updates later.

How do you account for 25 years.
I managed to bridge a decade in my missive to Megan. But this is different. A quarter of a century introspective. This is deliverance.

My Olympic highlight would have to be seeing the last leg of the torch relay at Hampton Court, then watching the flame start it’s journey down the Thames on the Glorianna, the opening ceremony just hours away. Later we located ourselves on the BBC coverage which added to our fun. Though up at 5am to get our vantage point at HC, we lasted til after midnight as we watched the ceremony broadcast on TV as guests at a neighbours Olympic BBQ. Days after the closing ceremony we spotted double gold medal winner Mo Farah running through Bushy Park.

I discovered Cornwall! Just as I must have heard childbirth is painful it was a sorry revelation to me the day I pitched up for my daughter’s delivery – I’ve been in circles where pals must have raved about Cornwall but it was it felt like such a discovery when I finally got to experience it myself. Passing the most idyllic sunny days along the North Cornish coast, we were like extras from a fifties novel – four go coving. The Bedruthan steps steps will be a mecca for us for summers to come.

Downton Abbey is back on screens. Before the season premiered, myself and some girlfriends spent a day at Highclere Castle, the ‘real Downton’ or at least where TV reality is filmed. Smaller than it appears on screen, I’m enjoying watching the drama unfold, knowing what’s physically just out of shot etc. Highclere’s own story is a riveting and I’ve just got it out from the library – Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey.

Still hot from the Olympic flame

Still hot from the Olympic flame – Hampton Court, 27 July 2012

We’ve known each other girl and woman.  Singleton and partnered, childless and mother.  Happy and sad. I don’t think either of us do carefree. Or at least we haven’t – not in a long time. Right now she is in a lot of pain.  She’s probably my best friend.  I’m not sure if I am hers but that doesn’t take from our friendship.  Her pain is etched across her brow.   I found it hard to hold her gaze  – her eyes showed so much hurt and fear.  It’s like there’s a poltergeist living in her head, hurling boulders and the beatings won’t stop. That was how it was last night. You’d have flinched too if you’d sat opposite her as I had. Today, she smiles and we don’t talk about what we spoke of last night. I’m not sure when we will again.

I’ve had Tarot card readings before. As a paid up punter –  never on the house and never in my house. Some at fairly dodgy addresses. So Sundays sitting was different from the get-go. There was my sister and Michelle, an American pal visiting, who produced the Motherpeace round tarot deck just as we were finishing our supper. So we made a clearing in amongst the crockery. ‘The Motherpeace Tarot celebrates the power of the Goddess and illuminates wisdom from a variety of cultures and from the earth herself’. I could do with some of that . We worked from the deck and an essential book of interpretations. These being circular, there were upright, reversed, left and right interpretations to choose from.  I was the first one to cut the deck and lay my cards.

Turning the cards over, I felt as though I was in the ladies shower room, butt naked, chatting away like this was a totally normal state of affairs, and I  was totally cool about stripping when clearly I wasn’t. I reminded myself that I was an open book with nothing to hide. I’m not though. But I didn’t call a halt so on we went. And I did get a good hand. There were a couple of funny moments. I didn’t get hung up on the specifics. I think I would have put a positive spin on whatever came up. I was prepared to filter. The cards spelt out my location – a good place. The right place.

It could have been different. I nearly didn’t spot that we were a card out to start. Reading card 2 for card 1 and so on. Or maybe that wouldn’t have mattered so much. For the main it was jaunty. The cards led on to chat and chat led on to tears. Tears to fears then back to more tears before we called time. DH was still awake when I crept in beside him at 3am. I whispered ‘A lot of shit has gone down’. I ruminated for a further hour cutting a quarter out of my bed hours. I’m tired since.

Oh my! That last post was addressed to fear and not to me. Where have I been?!* Let’s leave it at absent, in the way you can be in a conversation but, not present. Anyhow, I’m back now.

I’m volunteering 2 days-a-week for a mental health charity – nice people doing good work. I think it will provide some structure for me, bridge my CV and help to make me ‘paid work-ready’.

I might even have found my cohort. DH has been very patient with me but that is beginning to wane a little. I’m not sure if he trusts this process anymore. And I find I am trusting it more. I have a sense of someone walking with me, just a few paces ahead, only our shadows touching. And I know that some day as I walk along this path I’ll check for that shadow and it won’t be there and that will be just fine.