You’ll Never Walk Alone: Promoting a Charity Walk for Cancer Research UK

I do like to blog regularly so it must be time for my yearly post…hmmm, not hard to see why those Blogger of the Year awards aren’t flying in my direction.

Anyhoo, I’ve been busy.  Really busy.  As well as doing a day job as a Weddings Coordinator (which can be surprisingly stressful – they don’t call ’em bridezillas for nothing), I’ve also been supporting a charity walk called 3500 To End It with PR and social media. Laurence Carter lost his wife to cervical cancer and decided to spend a year walking 3,500 miles around the coast of England and Wales, raising funds for Cancer Research UK and awareness of preventing and eradicating cervical cancer.  Thus, ‘3500 To End It’.

Here’s a post I wrote* for the 3500 To End It blog to highlight some of the great publicity we received (and to attempt to make me look good now that I’m job hunting again!):

You’ll Never Walk Alone

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A couple of months into Laurence’s 3,500 mile walk – which actually turned out to be 4,250 miles due to walking up and down river estuaries instead of taking ferries, getting lost a few times, and several diversions to pubs along the way – he realised that he wasn’t getting as much publicity as he’d hoped.  It turns out that driving to an Airbnb, walking 10-15 miles, getting a bus back at the end of the day, eating, sampling a couple of pints of the local ale and trying to find somewhere to wash socks, doesn’t leave a great deal of time for contacting local newspapers or updating social media.

That’s where I came in.  I supported Laurence with PR and social media for the last nine months of his walk after a friend of a friend put me in touch.  I thought the walk sounded incredible and as for eradicating cervical cancer – well, who wouldn’t want to help to achieve that?

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Because the campaign was so personal to Laurence, I wanted to work as hard as I could in the hour I had each day to get his message to the biggest audience possible.  After creating a media strategy, I set to work, contacting hundreds of local and national media outlets (I think I emailed The One Show every other week!), reaching out to celebrities from all different fields (thanks to Bill Bryson, Martha Kearney, Jimmy Doherty and Helen Skelton for your support), and linking posts on Facebook and Twitter with everything from Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, International HPV Awareness Day and World CancerDay to national days featuring sticky buns, Pi (and pies!), book giving and inconveniencing yourself!

Thankfully, my persistence paid off and Laurence’s walk received great interest and coverage, both nationally and locally, reaching potentially millions of people, with another half a million impressions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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I was really pleased to get Laurence’s campaign into the national media. Laurence was able to tell his story in his own words with an emotional article in Woman magazine called The Picture that means So Much, as well as featuring in The Sun’s Fabulous magazine as part of the Cheers for Smears campaign.  The biggest coup was a full-page feature on the BBC News website, one of the biggest in the country with millions of visitors each day.  Laurence received lots of messages from friends and family who were amazed to read about him over their breakfast that morning!

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Local media was also massively important, as Laurence walked through almost 30 counties over the year so there was a huge audience to reach.  Before this, I had no idea just how many local newspapers and radio stations there are in England and Wales – believe me, there are A LOT – and, if they’re anywhere near the coast, I’ve spoken to/emailed/tweeted or messaged them! They range from hospital radio and local magazines with a handful of staff to BBC radio stations with hundreds of thousands of listeners and local newspapers/websites with almost a million readers each week.  We were fortunate that so many journalists and presenters were interested in Laurence’s story and he was interviewed by almost 50 local newspapers, magazines, radio and even TV stations.

I enjoyed every moment of working with Laurence; I’m so pleased that I was able to help him achieve his goal of raising awareness of cervical cancer prevention and bringing forward the day when we can eradicate cervical cancer.

And if anyone reading this would like a hand with PR or social media, please do get in touch!

*Yes, I do feel like I’ve cheated on Barbed Words with a hotter, newer blog!

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Busy (Not) Doin’ Nothin’

I was starting to get a bit full of myself, posting once or twice a week, but the organisers of the Least Prolific Blogger of the Year awards have been in touch and I needed to rein it in a bit if I was to retain my title.  So blog silence for a few weeks. But I haven’t been idle. No, siree.

My cosy mystery has gone to my editor for its first read through.  I’ve also passed it onto a couple of friends, one of whom has already commented on the swearing…hmmmm.

Through another friend, I’ve done a couple of articles for Fabric Magazine to get some experience of freelance writing.  Here I am, bigging stuff up: Organic SeptemberCoffeeCocktails, Cats and posh art.

I’m doing an Open University online writing course and I’ve signed up for a one-day writing retreat. I’ve had a idea for an online business, and am trying to come up with a fabulous name and logo for it.

My BIG PLAN is to somehow combine all these things so I can generate enough money each month to be able to work from home.  My alternative plan is to slip on a squashed tomato in Tesco and sue them for millions.  Might need to move to America for that one to be successful.

Unfortunately, someone else had this idea for a website before I did:

Yep, that’s it. You pay a dollar just to see how many other suckers people have paid a dollar to see how many people have paid a dollar to see how many people…and so on, until you’ve made a million.  Bloody genius.

Any other great money-making ideas out there??

Harry Potter and the Slightly Impressed Teens

My youngest daughter has just finished the Harry Potter series so we booked tickets for The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Or Harry Potter and The Amazing Money Vanishing Spell as I prefer to call it. We thought it would be a fabulous family day out so off we went.

Of course, we totally forgot that it would involve two teenagers being seen in public with THEIR PARENTS. Despite the fact that everything is exciting and fun when they’re hanging out with their mates – Love Island memes on social media, inane YouTubers eating chillies or Shawn Mendes just existing -, when they’re with their parents, nothing is cool.  They could be presented with a singing, diamond-pooping Basilisk and they would just respond with an eye roll. Imagine if someone saw them, enjoying themselves with their family?! Even people they’ve never met and will never meet again???!  They would be immediately struck off the Cool Teen List.

Anyway, dragging two reluctant teens behind us, we entered a massive warehouse housing many of the actual sets used in the Harry Potter films. Whole scenes are recreated, from the Great Hall and Diagon Alley, to Platform 9¾ and the Forbidden Forest, along with Dumbledore’s study, the Weasleys’ kitchen and the Potions classroom.

It was pretty amazeballs* but, to be honest, after a couple of hours it did start to get a bit repetitive and there isn’t really a great deal to do, except look at the props, costumes and creatures. The fact that we were really hungry and kept hoping that the Backlot Cafe would be around the next corner probably didn’t add to our enjoyment.  Obviously, once we found the cafe, we had to try a Butterbeer, which was incredibly sweet, like drinking a packet of melted Werther’s Originals with eight spoonfuls of sugar and a dollop of double cream on top. Diabetes in a tankard.

Butterbeer

Fortified with plenty of fat, carbohydrates and sugar, we continued the tour feeling much jollier. Until we came across the Dursley’s house and I realised that it bore a striking resemblance to my house. Yep, I actually live in Privet Drive. KMN.

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My favourite bits were Diagon Alley, and seeing the beautiful drawings and incredible models that the Art Department made.

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As well as the cost of the tickets and lunch**, there are also plenty of other opportunities to throw your money away buy add-ons, such as having your photo taken ‘flying’ on a broomstick, and of course, there’s the shops. Plural. Three shops in all, the last one almost as big as the entire tour.

My daughter really wanted a Draco Malfoy wand, which retails for £29. For what is basically a stick.

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Meanly/wisely (depending on your viewpoint), we didn’t buy it, telling her she could just go to the park where she could choose from an endless supply of ‘wands’. Instead we pointed her towards the more sensibly priced stationary section.

With lunch and few items from the gift shop, four hours with Harry cost around £200 for four of us. I would definitely recommend it if you’re a HP fan as it was fascinating to see the huge amount of work and skill that went into the films, and the model of Hogwarts at the end is just stunning. And, amazingly, the kids said they kinda enjoyed it too! Result.

 

*Saying things like ‘amazeballs’ may be part of the reason why my children are embarrassed to be seen with me in public…

**To be fair, you could bring your own food and drink and the tour guides told everyone that you could eat this in the cafe.  But I didn’t know this before we got there so wasn’t prepared! 

 

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off

I’ve had enough. I really have. The world seems to be on a downward dash to destruction and/or insanity.  From falling sperm counts, acid attacks and pay rows to Trump, May and the ongoing Brexit saga.

But what has really got my goat in the last week or so is pubic hair.  Or, rather, the lack of it. I’m old enough that I don’t care what my noo-noo looks like. I was brought up in the ’70s and 80s when women were real women and men were turned on by women who looked like they still had their pants on when naked.

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A friend of mine recently bought a collection of ’70s Mayfair magazines from eBay so this is no false recollection on my part. We enjoyed a trip down memory lane (which, coincidently, is where we used to find jazz mags in those days; tossed into hedgerows and verges, sad and rain-soaked, their pages stuck together) looking at some of the most hirsute ladies one could imagine, posing in a variety of the usual soft-porn settings – hay bales, satin covered sofas, wild meadows etc. Obviously, these magazines are sexist and degrading to women, but I kinda think they should be introduced into sex education at school. Not only to see what pubic hair is supposed to look like but also to see women who haven’t had any breast augmentation, liposuction, trout pouts, botox, fake tans or eyebrow enhancement. It would be a huge eye-opener to boys being brought up on a diet of Love Island, Pornhub and Naked Attraction.

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For those of you lucky enough not to have caught Naked Attraction, it’s like Blind Date, except that the choice of date is based solely on the size and shape of contestants’ penis/vulva/arse/stomach/breasts/nose/teeth, as their naked body is revealed from the feet up.

I watched an episode (ok, two…) on my sister’s recommendation. The most shocking thing about it – except how amazingly dull it actually is – is that there was not a single pube to be seen. And that included the men. Are we really raising an entire generation who believe that pubic hair needs to be removed and that it’s sexually appealing to look like a prepubescent child?  And don’t even get me started on the tattoos.  Or scribbles, as I prefer to call them.  Why is every participant on Naked Attraction covered in tattoos??  I really don’t mind the odd classy, beautifully done tattoo.  It’s just that I haven’t seen any.

The lack of pubic hair doesn’t trigger* me so much but it makes me salty** on behalf of my teenage daughters, who are being brainwashed into believing that natural lady parts aren’t supposed to be hairy.

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It actually gets worse. The Perfect V is a company whose Range of beauty products is designed to keep your ‘V’ in shape, and make you feel good all over – whether you want to bare it all, or lose your underwear anywhere, anytime, Fifth Avenue or Strøget.

Yep. They’re talking about a range of products designed for your tuppence. Not just one product. Ooooh, no. Eight products ranging from an exfoliator and gentle wash to beauty sheets, serum, mist and ‘luminzer’. Yes, you read that right. A highlighter for your fanny.

And the cost of these ‘V’ vitals? A mere $300.  $300!!!

So, now not only do young women need to feel insecure about their figure, face, skin and hair, they also need to worry that their foo-foos are ugly.  But don’t worry, because Perfect V offers you the stylish, branded solution to your defective twinkle.  Their marketing is pretty slick with an aspirational video of a beautiful, stylish Scandi woman emerging from her morning dip in the ocean, wrapping herself in a cashmere cardi before heading home to eat berries and rub cream into her bits.  (Or eat cream and rub berries into her bits, it wasn’t quite clear.)

The Perfect V™ product line is for anytime or après any kind of hair-removal and always for beauty’s sake. It is pure, indulgent pampering*** and love for your “V.” It is a multi-tasking luxury skincare formulated to rejuvenate, enhance and beautify the “V.”

Sadly, I’m sure enough women will worry that their fanjos aren’t up to scratch and will be convinced to buy this tosh.  Which (disappointingly) has been invented by two women, who no doubt don’t care that they’re bringing a new insecurity to women and girls, as long as they’re raking in the cash.

Mind you, having watched Naked Attraction, I’m sure that products for men to pamper their John Thomas’ will be right behind: The Perfect P, anyone?

Right, time to get off, this is my stop.

 

*Teen slang. It means you’re getting cross

**This one means you are now angry.

***Nothing to do with beauty products is ever ‘pampering’.  It’s just bloody hard work.

It’s My Birthday Too…

 

So, today’s my birthday.  And Mother’s Day.  Obviously, on an occasion like this, I would normally be stuffing my face with plenty of cake, prosecco and lard.  However, I’ve been following Slimming World since January, after seeing a photo of myself at a wedding where I resembled an elephant on a big night out.

I’ve lost almost two stone so am now more Garfield than Mrs Large.  But, as I’ve still got a way to go before I’m Minnie, I celebrated my big day with a slice of Slimming World Lemon Couscous Cake.   It actually tastes really good and is Syn free.  (Yes, it’s a tweak to all you SW fanatics out there, but I don’t care.  If you’re not a SW fanatic, just enjoy.)  Plus, it’s super easy to make.

I topped it off with a spoonful of fat-free Lemon Curd and a swirl of raspberry jam.  Tastes just like a Victoria Sponge…(try telling HWW that!)

Lemon Couscous Cake

4oz Couscous
2 Eggs
2 Lemons (Juiced) Rind Optional
3 tbsp Granulated Sweetener
1 Tub (250g) Quark or Fat-free Yoghurt
1 tsp Baking Powder
—————–

Cover the couscous in boiling water. Cover and leave to stand for 5 mins and fluff with a fork.

Whisk the eggs separately.

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.

Bake in a greased loaf tin at 180C for 40 – 45 mins. Once cooked stick a clean knife in and check the inside is cook. The knife should come out fairly clean – No gooey mixure stuck to it.

Enjoy whilst thinking of how much you hate chocolate and wouldn’t eat a pizza if someone paid you. [What, is that actually a job?? – Ed]

Happy Birthday, indeed.

 

Wednesday Week

Not much writing going on in the Barbed Words house.  My week can pretty much be summed up as:

Packing.  Work.  Packing.  Coffee.  Packing.  Packing.  Coffee.  Taking child to doctors.  Tea.  Iced Bun.  Chemists.  Going to charity shop.  Gardening.  Gin and tonic.  Pasta.  Packing.  Coffee.  Packing.  Charity shop.  eBay.  Tea.  Gardening.  Pizza.   Top Gear.  Top Gun.  Driving 200 miles to drop off some crap valued possessions.  Wine.  Packing.

Repeat a few more times and that’s about it.  What a marvellous week.

Yet again, the only bit of writing I managed was the Six Word Story Challenge.  The prompt word was Dark.  Lots of stories about scary places, coffins and death.  My entry:

Bugger. The bloody bulb’s gone again.

Keeping it real, man.

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Last conversation at school before I headed off for the joy that is the half-term break:

‘Miss, I’ve squashed my banana.’

‘That’s a shame, Harry.’

‘Not my banana, Miss, an actual edible one.’

‘Well, thank you for clarifying that…’

What I Go to School For

Although in Rome, I enjoyed the life of a lady who lunches (or drinks cappuccino, at least), once back in England I needed to find work.  As I have children, I wanted a job which offers flexible hours and time off in the holidays [Sure your poor work ethic didn’t have anything to do with it??  Ed.  Shut your face – Me].

Therefore, like 70% of the mums I know, I’ve ended up working in a school.  Apparently, 1.5 million part-time workers are over-qualified for their jobs, with women worst affected. This totally applies to me.  Even if I did full-time hours, my job would still pay less than half what I was earning fourteen years ago before having kids. Moral of the story?? DON’T TAKE A CAREER BREAK!!  Or, at least don’t something that changes so drastically over the years that you can’t go back.

Anyway, part of my job is supervising the library.  And the students that use it.  So my day involves conversations like this:

‘Miss, Josh has drawn a penis on my book.’

‘Josh, don’t draw in Harry’s book.’

‘Miss, Harry’s lying!  I didn’t draw a penis.’

‘Miss, look, here’s the penis.’

‘Yes, I can see it, thank you, Harry.  Can’t you just rub it out?’

‘I haven’t got a rubber, Miss, so I can’t rub the penis out.’

‘Right, here’s a rubber.  Just rub it out please.’

‘Miss!  I’ve rubbed the penis out but you can still see it.   He’s ruined my book with a penis.’

‘Harry, it’s fine.  You can hardly see it.’

‘Miss, I didn’t even draw that penis.’

‘He did, Miss, he drew the penis.’

‘I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ANYONE ELSE SAY THE WORD PENIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

‘Miss?’

‘WHAT?’

‘You said penis.’

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