Friday, 27 April 2012

The minis rugby tour - a long short tale

The omen was not good when 8am came and went and our coach did not appear. The same at 8.15am. And then 8.30am.
Amidst much frantic phone calling to contact numbers (that did not answer or simply dropped out), and pondering as to whether we could find space for our entourage on the other two luxury double-decker coaches that the U8s and U9s had secured (obviously far better contacts than yours truly), there was a sudden howl of laughter disbelief when a vehicle reminiscent of the 1970s chugged in to view.

Yup. Our bus. Mocked by one of the other (U8) coaches as having last made an appearance in the 1972 film 'On the Buses' (with Reg Varney), we smiled through gritted teeth and climbed in. No DVD player, slightly wonky heating (or distinct lack of control of it), but at least there were seats, it was clean, and there was an on board loo. More about that later.

Possibly the fact that I had threatened latecomers with roller-skates and having to hold on to the rear fender all the way to Wales meant that at least our departure was swift, what with everyone being there on time. Not sure the other teams could make the same claim. Apparently they had to make at least half a dozen roll-calls to check numbers. We nailed it first time.

One-all, I think.

Furthermore, the knowledge that our group was also staying in a proper hotel overnight (with comfortable beds, hot showers and running water, and all-inclusive breakfast) and not a hostel (dormitories, lumpy mattresses, shared facilities) probably explains how other touring groups (ie the U8s) saw fit to apportion their respective budgets.

Never mind. Two-one.

Given the lack of a DVD player on our 'On the Buses' coach and the paltry supply of other techie gadgets to keep the children entertained (one iPad between 22 children makes a) the owner very popular, and b) the parent very diplomatic), we embarked on a far more serious mission: teaching everyone the Welsh national anthem. In Welsh. Our lead coach was choirmaster. And a bloody good one at that too (it helps that he can sing in tune).

Now, for those who already struggle with languages, this can be a challenge.
For those who find twenty-seven consonants in a single word (with five l's, eight w's, and fifteen g's in quick succession) even more daunting, well... let's just say I had a stroke of genius and foresight and printed off a phonetic version for all to follow.

When even this was criticised for still being incomprehensible, I pointed out that I had taken it from that venerable institution that is the BBC. As we had a rather senior member of this same institution on board in the touring party, any criticism soon turned to praise and hey presto - everyone joined in.

And so to the rugby.

The kids were brilliant. Despite the inclement weather (rain, wind, glimpse of sun, more rain, still more rain, wind... you get the picture) they played their hearts out and showed everyone how far they have come in a single season.
Less 'bees about the honey pot' chasing a ball round a pitch - or rather, the child in possession of the ball - and more focus on line-outs, tagging, passing on the run, going forward, scoring tries, and, most important, teamwork. I felt like a proud mother with her brood of chicks. And that was not counting my own cherubs who were playing across three age groups.

Our Welsh hosts on both days were gracious and welcoming. We aimed to impress Pentyrch on the Saturday by practising 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' in their presence, and then they sang it with us. We sounded much better during the latter rendition.

Llanishen on the Sunday was not party to our vastly improved choral renditions, but I put this down to the rugby scrum that was taking place in their club house post matches - part mass touring entourage (on top of the visiting U7s, U8s and U9s, the U12s then also showed up), part weary (and damp) parents enjoying a well-deserved beer or several without the onus of having to drive back to London.

And so the tour returned home. The benefits of a 'lesser' quality coach did not diminish our squad's spirits in the slightest. Aside from one child managing to lock themselves in the loo on the outbound journey (my daughter, no less), our very own Reg Varney (aka John the bus driver, catch phrase: "She must be right, musn't she?" when referring to Doris the sat-nav lady) was a master of maneouverability in the Welsh country lanes - unlike the flash double-decker luxury coaches with restricted turning circles and visibility - and all touring parties arrived back at the club house within minutes of each other.


Suffice to say, in conclusion, that our t-shirts were spot on.

Here's to next year!


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Unsolicited advances

Like many other bloggers, not a day goes by when I do not get an email of some kind from a PR company or marketing agency trying their luck in getting me to promote their product/endorse their campaign/sample their goodies.
Typically I ignore them. Too busy with work and other matters, quite frankly. The one exception was last year when I replied with a preposterous counter-offer, and was taken at my word. The rest, as they say, is history. Or a very silly video, at least.

So, a couple of weeks ago I receive this email. I am reproducing in full the exchange (only blanking out the obvious) if for no other reason to see how many future PR or marketing pitches take notice.

Hi (LCM's full name),

I hope you're well.

I stumbled across your blog and immediately thought it would make the perfect place for me to write a guest post.

I work closely with rate comparison site (name of company) and, with their help, I know of numerous ways to save money on broadband, phone deals, credit cards and mortgages. I have guest posted for a variety of bloggers and the feedback has always been positive. I'm confident the content will be useful for your readership. 

The piece would not be biased or blatantly advertorial (rather, it would offer useful tips for saving money). But, because I'd be keen to link to the (company) website, I'm happy to compensate you with £50. 

Would you like me to push ahead and write an article for you?

Best wishes,

(Name of PR person)

To which I replied. 

(Mr PR person)

Typically I do not respond to such solicitations, but I am making an exception here, if only to annotate a few points and flag them to you.

Firstly, your comment about how you "stumbled across" my blog, and yet are addressing me by my first name. Either you are lying about the stumbling bit - because my name does not appear anywhere, nor do I publicise it - or you are incredibly perceptive and have struck lucky with your first guess. 
I believe the former is more applicable.

Secondly, and once more to the 'stumbling' anecdote, if you were indeed as smart as you pertain to be - by stating that my blog would be "the perfect place" for you to contribute your positively received writings (I paraphrase) - you would quickly realise that a) I do not 'do' guest posts, and b) I have only ever done a couple of sponsored posts and that was some two years ago.

Thirdly, and I hate to press the point, but the clue is in the name: London City Mum. The specifics are under my profile, ie I work full time. Much as I am flattered by the offer to compensate me with £50 for your efforts, I will have to turn you (and your sponsors) down.


And got this back. 

Hi (LCM's full name - again),

I hope this email finds you well. 

I did indeed notice that your name is not on the website. And I don't appreciate being accused of lying. I have installed (application name) - a startup that works as a (name of provider) add on to display social media information about contacts as their address in typed in. So, somewhere in the past you have put your name to that email address and the clever and social programme has scraped that information and delivered it back to me. It's not underhand. And it's certainly not lying. It's simply a useful programme that many people who work in social media utilise. 

I don't pertain to be smart - nowhere in my communication with you have I pertained to be smart, certainly. I simply offered you a deal. Many bloggers are interested in this deal and I have provided quality content for them. 

As for your third point, I don't really see how it means anything. I'm not suggesting you need my money - I am simply offering it as a transaction. As I say, many bloggers accept and are happy with the outcomes. 

Now I have no intentions of creating bad blood but I find the tone of your email patronising and accusatory. If you are not interested in my proposed deal, then that is all you need to say. I think the truth is that you were taken aback that I knew your name when you had obviously taken measures to hide it from your blog readership. 

I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot and I wish you well.

Kind regards,

(Name of PR person)

So I replied. Again. (I must have been having a boring evening). 

(Mr PR person)

No hard feelings and certainly was not my intention to be accusatory. My sarcasm - inherent in my blog - is obviously something that has not translated to the printed word in this exchange.
The bottom line is that I will not be taking you up on your proposal, but thanks for offering.


And the final answer back.


Thanks for your reply - I understand. 


And the moral of the story? I think my lovely friend Potty Mummy put it perfectly in the ensuing tweets.

PR firms, please take note. Although I'm not holding my breath.


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