"Nope. Not even once." came my reply.
Whilst my sister was worrying about my sanity (oh bless these people who do not understand the interwebz) I had bigger worries on my mind. For yes, I was about to go away with 11 people that I had never actually met in the flesh, but of much bigger concern was the fact that most of these people are Fashion Bloggers. As in actual, real-life, take photos of their outfits and post them on the internet Fashion Bloggers. People who know about layering and the art of accessorizing. People are so good at fashion blogging that people come to them asking them to blog about their stuff.
The roll-call being:
Alex from Odd Socks & Pretty Frocks
Lucy from Tete en l'air
Sophie from Country Girl Does Norfolk
Gemma from Fat Frocks
Char from t*rexes & tiaras
Sarah from A Million Dresses
Rosie from A Rosie Outlook
Sarah from essbeevee
Maria from Frills 'n' Spills
Chloe from Chloe Likes to Talk
Alice from An Alien World
I was out of my depth.
A hop, a skip, and a bus and train ride later I was in Derby ready to meet actual internet people out in the real world.
The first exciting thing?
Getting to hear people's voices.
So strange to think that I've been reading Alex and Lucy's blogs for about 3/4 years but have never heard their actual voices. Thankfully it wasn't like when we all heard David Beckham's voice for the first time and wanted to pull our ears off our heads.
Our base for the next 4 days was Norbury Manor, a National Trust property that has recently been renovated and let as a holiday cottage. These were surroundings I think we all could get used to, and despite the proximity of a graveyard freaking some people out, being Ladies of the Manor suited us very well.
Norbury Manor highlights from L-R
1. Our neighbouring sheep 2. The graveyard next door. 3. The only man on the trip, Rosie's dog, Bodhi. 4. I took a photo of Alex taking a photo of Lucy taking a photo. 5. Norbury Manor 6. The Winner of the category for Most Secret Garden-like Door 7. One of the beautiful bedrooms 8. The summerhouse 9. Our garden.
With 12 people all in one place there is more than a little chance for people being on top of one another and feeling the pressure. Not this weekend - the Manor was more than big enough to have everyone in it without feeling on top of one another - a quick walk through would find people in the kitchen, people in the wood-panelled drawing room, people in the snug, people getting lost trying to find their way to the toilet or capering about in the garden.
I wonder what the previous residents of Norbury Manor would have thought if they could have seen the extent of the outfit photos taken in the house and grounds over the space of one afternoon, much less what they would have made of the series of photos we took of all of us together...
Rosie, Char, Maria, Sarah, Alex, Lucy, Chloe, Sarah, Me, Alice, Gem, Sophie and Bodhi
(Photo courtesy of Rosie)
Chatsworth highlights (maze not included)
- Learning to listen to the Sat Nav lady when she tells us to bear right
- Attempting to find the middle of the maze in the gardens and coming to the conclusion that there is no middle...
- ...at the same time discovering that Lucy doubles up as Ray Mears in her spare time
- Discovering that one of the bedrooms in Chatsworth has a bath in a cupboard
- Picking up new tips to lay the table next time I have some mates round courtesy of the knowledgeable Guides at Chatsworth - from now on I will be laying my forks with the tines pointed down so people with massive lacy cuffs don't catch them on their sleeves - a potentially mortifying situation I'm sure.
- Practicing my lunging and photography skills taking photos of Maria in the Gardens (both are excellent I might add.)
- Finding my new favourite crisps - Pipers Crisp Company. (Crisps are important to me, 'kay?)
- Buying another book to add to my growing Mitford collection - a collection of letters from Nancy Mitford
Stained glass windows in Norbury Manor
The four days could have been awful, it could have gone all wrong and there's still a little part of me that can't believe it didn't. I mean there were twelve of us for god's sake - where were the arguments and the tantrums? Where was the person that I hated? (Although apparently everyone should have an annoying friend and if you don't have one, it's you.....erm....)
I can't think of 11 people from my "real" life that I could have gone away with and been chilled out the whole time, with no pressure to do anything but be happy. And full of cake.
Other highlights of the weekend included:
- Playing a brilliant game of Articulate where we learned that Mallards can be male or female and that there is just no easy way to describe "joining" or "The Aga Khan"
- Re-watching Clueless for the first time since I saw it at the cinema (I know)
- Being almost killed off by the sheer volume of cake that came to the Manor
- Marvelling at the wonder that is Chloe, who can cook for 12 people without throwing things
- Watching Embarassing Bodies in the snug on the last night with Alex, Lucy, Sophie and Alice - a bonding experience that will never be forgotten.
- Going in search of alpacas, not finding them and being chased off by two farm dogs whilst trying to take a picture of a tractor with a face.*
- Just being in somewhere called a 'snug'
- Sampling the delights of marshmallow vodka courtesy of Alex
- Introducing Pooh Sticks to members of the group - but not being able to work out who actually won
- Being saved from a total meltdown by Char who managed to find my embroidery scissors after they were eaten by a sofa
- Trying to guess just exactly what Sophie does for a living (international spy can be the only option)
- Getting tripped up by the stairs - every. single. day.
- Watching Bodhi actually fly through the air at one point - the dog is a Champion Show Jumper
- Emptying the charity shops of Ashbourne of anything that was worth having.
My last post was all about how I wasn't sure where I fitted in the blogging world at the moment. And I still don't know. I'm not a fashion blogger or a craft blogger or any other kind of blogger but I'm a blogger that is thankful that she took the plunge and went away with total strangers for a holiday.
Except they're not total strangers. They are my new friends and this is where I belong.
(Photo courtesy of Rosie)
Corny. But true.
You know what it means when 12 bloggers go away? Potentially 12 posts about the same weekend. For other people's words (and much better pictures) you should read the following posts from;