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The Mouse's view
Raffi started his meet proposal review with the heading Are you a man or a(nony)mouse – well, I'm definitely a mouse. You'll notice the absence of a photo on my page. I've been well criticized for not automatically returning reads. After the site went through one of its spiteful phases a few years back I withdrew from the social side almost totally and these days I chat to only a few people on site, and even fewer off. And I ain't good in groups.
So what was I doing on catching a train to the big smoke on a Saturday morning, after a painful, sleepless night, to spend the afternoon with a bunch of people – only two of whom I'd met before?
Firstly, I'd gone along to a previous meet closer to home on the promise of meeting two of my dearest site-chums – neither of whom could make it on the day as it turned out – and had actually enjoyed myself. I met Docpov, who is a seriously interesting chap (much missed at the moment as he's not writing on site as much as once upon a time), and also Rich/Ada who are definitely two of life's "good guys". So, when the next one came along, I was up for it.
Secondly, along with Rich and Mrs R those two cyber-buddies had both promised to be there this time. I'm not going to name-check everyone, but it was a real personal pleasure to finally meet both Duncan and Sarah who were kind enough to be the first to add me to their COTs when I joined the site six years ago and have been constant sources of information, amusement, help and support ever since. I really WILL sort out the LOOP, I promise. I'm embarrassed to say that pre-Iceland, my boots did literally have cobwebs on them… but I'm back in walk-mode. Off to Malverns in September, but if you haven't heard from me by the end of October, whips may be cracked.
Back in London…
… If you've read Richada's review or Raffi's update you'll know that Sarah was kind enough to kick off the day for a few of us with a tour of her office. I'd gladly return the favour, but my orange-papered box room really can't compete with St Paul's Cathedral. Thanks Sarah – and to your managers – for allowing us the privilege. I think you did an excellent job of a peak behind what it's like to work there and selling to us the fact that actually we'd probably all like to do the decent thing and pay good money to go through the front door next time and spend a lot longer on the details. If anyone is feeling aggrieved that the offer wasn't extended generally, please understand Sarah's position. The Cathedral is a hugely expensive institution to maintain, with no public grant, and whilst there are obvious perks to the job of working there… as with any job, it doesn't do to extract the Michael. Apart from which, keeping just the four of us mustered whilst politely reminding the public they're not allowed to take photos (always a steward even when not in uniform) was probably tricky enough for the girl.
From the sublime to…
… the quaint and quirky. Am I the only one who didn't know that Amen Corner wasn't just a folk group, but an actual street? Apparently that's where St Paul's clergy hang out when they're not at work. I kid you not. It's a wonderful surviving terrace from Wren's time hidden away behind modern office blocks not far from the cathedral. Seek it out.
This of course was a mere diversion on the way to the venue. As was Sarah's next little treat: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Raffi was perforce dragged away to retrieve the huge selection of Ciao goodies to take to the venue, whilst we few had a little time to while away in one of those pubs that I'm always delighted to find surviving. All small bars and wandering corridors, and down into winding cellars, where you're never sure you'll come back out of on the same side of the river, never mind the same side of the street. You really can imagine Dickens sitting here, quill in hand and quaff-stained paper on the table, fretting about next week's deadline.
I only hope I can find the place again – this is one I need to share.
And, yes, finally, the Meet proper…
Raffi must have begun to think we'd deserted the cause, although I'm sure we weren't technically late. Just not the first to be there to reassure that someone would be (Don't you just hate being the host!)… but we needn't have worried. He already had company when we did get to AllBarOne.
Actually, you can't be technically late to a Ciao Meet. For those who wonder if such a get together is for them, this is something to bear in mind. They have a start time. Sort of. But if you're there early, then it starts early. They don't have a finish time. You don't have to be there for a given time-span. Just turn up, say hi….have a drink… and if you're not enjoying yourself by then, smile, plead a prior engagement (or not) and wander away. We'd (and I feel a bit weird saying 'we' because I still don't feel properly part of this community – a mouse, you see) – but yes, WE, would be really pleased to see you.
The previous meet I attended was less well-supported, but then East Anglia is never the easiest place to get to, certainly it's not on the way to anywhere else (except maybe Holland). For this one, accepting that London is easier for most people, Raffi also played two really good organisational strategies.
(1) Don't over organize. A free-form meeting is easier for we mousier folks to deal with. We know we're not going to be made to play games or do anything embarrassing (except of our own volition, obviously, and this week I was somewhat off the booze so totally well-behaved) or otherwise show our ignorance.
(2) Marketing. Spread the word. Rope in your mates to gb people to read the review. Tell Ciao. Get them on-side. If they did nothing else to support the day – and we can debate that with all good humour – they did put out a public announcement.
Well done Raffi (and friends)… for my money, it worked. The venue was indeed one of those modern, soulless places ~ or to put it another way: a neutral backdrop against which we could create our own ambience. It was spacious enough, and empty enough, to enable the meet to do its thing without restriction or getting in anyone else's way.
And they didn't bat an eyelid when Sarah commented about her first beer (in a tone that could have been a compliment) "that tastes like bleach". I was amused at the response: "Would you like something else?"…. Erm….. er…."No. I'll have another of these when you're ready?".???? DoH! But to give the barman his due, he did take her at her word, simply poured it away without smelling or tasting it himself and poured a bottle of something hopefully a bit more pleasant.
Apologies to those I never got around to chatting to properly, and to those I did – it was a pleasure!
What's it all about Alfie?
Basically, just a bunch of mates getting together to have a few drinks, a bit of food (maybe), a few laughs, a bit of a catch up. As my brother would say "it's all about the Crack". Never fully understood that expression, but I think it means the atmosphere, the friendship, the fun, the talk.
It's that simple. It's that good.
Ciao talk? Of course. When you get a bunch of people together, it's natural that there'll be a certain amount of talk about the one thing they all have in common. That doesn't mean it's cliquey though. Ciao talk tends to be about the site, about the company, about how well (or otherwise) we as individuals do (or in my case don't) on site, about why we write, where else we write – it's most definitely NOT about absent friends and colleagues. But the really interesting thing is how little Ciao-talk there is. We do, after all, all have lives which stretch beyond the confines of a single website. Real-world talk definitely dominates.
Will I be at the next one?
Timing permitting: definitely… I second Richada's call for Cumbria… (a free tour of Sellafield maybe?). Or the beach-party in Brighton sounds good to me (though possibly not in February).
Ciao for now
Did we moan about Ciao? Yes. Did we have a laugh at their generously donated goodies? Yes. Do we think they could do a tad more to support and reward their community? Yes. Do we really care? Actually, not that much in a serious-real-world way.
I'd say "Thanks Ciao"… whilst we probably really would have preferred a memory stick or a tee-shirt… if I'm honest, it wouldn't have generated as much banter as the industrial strength dog-leads and door stop notebooks did.
What no freebies?
Richada suggests no goodies for the next one – I'd beg to differ. If it's publicity they want though, what's really needed is a sponsored tee-shirt ~ tour-style ~ Marymoose's Ciao-meet 2011 ~ with a Marymoose logo on the front and Ciao logo on the back. (Sorry Mary, just by way of example, principle applies whoever is generous enough to take on the organisation) ~ we'd all give the sponsor a plug after all.
I had hoped to come, but my husband (and carer/driver etc) was not in the least bit interested (quite apart from the cost of fuel!) . . . and I'd have had difficulty coming on my own . . . perhaps another time I'll manage to figure out a way totally by public transport via my 't(w)early' disabled bus pass (and his, as my companion?)
. . . ♥ jesi ♥
Fuzzy98 29.08.2010 10:03
Yes, it was a great day and although you can't really be classed as turning up 'late' to a Ciao meet, i think my 2 hours after the start time was pushing it a bit! Alas we exchanged few words this time, although we have met before at the Ipswich meet a couple of years ago, but there is always next time... Great reminders of the day! Sarah xx