Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mumsnet Blogfest triumph!

The Mumsnet Blogfest is a triumph, both for Mumsnet and for Eliza Gray™ ®! Everyone tells me so. Well, at least four people. They think I performed brilliantly on my Keynote (yes, Keynote!) Panel discussion about Private Lives on a Public Stage, and how much you should reveal online. One woman even says, 'You were a heavyweight on the panel.'

Yes! Eliza Gray, Heavyweight™ ®!

Plus, three people tweeted my bon mots. 'If you can't hack it, don't blog it,' they quoted, picking the one opinion I voiced that was actually lifted from Prof Tanya Byron's earlier session. Though, of course, it's all in the paraphrasing.

Let me rewind. I arrive, wearing my fabulous as-new H&M-by-way-of-Oxfam wrap dress, to a cacophany of coffee-supping ladies who all seem to know each other. I loiter and lurk, and then pluck up courage to ascend to the Green Room on the 29th floor. Given that this is my first and possibly last
 bona fide Green Room experience, I must grasp it by the horns, sweep in and rub shoulders with the great women of our time!

Except the Green Room is empty. All the great women of our time are downstairs. I descend once more into the cacophany, pick up my copy of The Times and an Innocent smoothie, and take my seat in the audience. 

The opening speech is delivered by Miriam Gonz├ílez Dur├íntez. I am an instant fan. I Like her! I Google+ her! She is real and warm and passionate about motherhood and womanhood and children and human rights. And totally gorgeous (and, as it happens, softer-looking than at the Royal Wedding). Miriam for PM! She and Michelle should rule the world! Brilliant minds, compassionate hearts.


Miriam is followed by five more brave and brainy women, Gaby Wood, Rachel Cusk, Zoe Strimpel, Zoe Williams and Jenny Lawson, The Blogess, who joins us at 4am Texas time via Google+ Hangout (I know! What's that when it's at home? Well it's like Skype - and it means she can bring her cat). The conversation strays onto my panel's patch, the question of how much of yourself and your intimate circle you lay bare on your blog. Rachel, who is very highbrow, says her mission is to 'challenge the social contract' (I know!) and 'when one writes with candour one is more lacerated.' Zoe W, who is very funny, says, 'I will genuinely do anything for anybody.' 

Of the foul comments left on her blog by trolls, Jenny says, if they say 'your an idiot' and spell 'you're' wrong, she leaves that because it's quite funny, but if they leave a really vindictive comment, she goes in and changes it to one of soft, fluffy adulation. She really is a marvellous role model! Not that I've ever had any vindictive comments, mainly because I don't have any comments. But all that is changing now I am a Heavyweight (and about to diss Liz Jones), and it's good to be prepared. 

Via further sessions with more razor-sharp brains and tongues, and bountiful platters of delicious nosh, and a lot of whizzing up and down in the lift, the witching hour arrives. I go up to the Green Room to meet my fellow panellists. Liz Jones is sitting on a bar stool right in front of me, looking vacantly in my direction. I smile and walk towards her. 

'Hi Liz, I'm Eliza, we're ...'  My voice fades away, as she is still looking vacantly at me, and yet apparently not registering my existence. She reminds me of Michael Jackson, with her highly made-up face of questionable authenticity and the impression that she is operating at one remove from reality. One of the Mumsnet team comes up, all smiles, and re-introduces us. Again, Liz blanks me, this time turning back to her mobile.

I strike up a conversation instead with Tim Dowling of the Guardian, fellow panellist of the humorous rather than laid-bare kind (and banjo player with the marvellous Police Dog Hogan, who, he says, have not been invited back to the Port Eliot Festival where Cass and I saw them a couple of summers ago. It's a scandal!). 

Soon we're whizzing down the 29 floors. I follow Liz down the final steps to the theatre, curious as to whether she'll make it on her six inch bondage stilettos. We take our places on stage. Fi is ill. Instead we have Observer writer Geraldine Bedell, in orange, who directs her first question to Liz. 'You've been baring all for longest here...'

There's a pause. Then Liz says, 'I can't hear you.'

It seems Liz is deaf, which could explain everything. I have since Googled her and she has written that, being profoundly deaf, 'People think you are either stupid or rude.' While I am totally sympathetic to her having a hearing impairment, I put this in the balance as an excuse for her behaviour and find that she still comes out rude, given that it can't have escaped her that there was some sort of comradely introduction going on earlier, and that a smile of acknowledgment is the usual minimum social requirement. 

'Do you ever regret anything you've written?' asks Geraldine.

'Yeah. All of it,' says Liz. 

The audience sits up, riveted. The Twittersphere crackles with messages of pity for Liz. I crane my neck to see past Geraldine. Liz's face bears a pall of gloom.

'When you discover your husband's cheating,' she's saying, her mask still uncracked, 'there's a big bit of your brain that says, that's great, I've got a two-parter. It makes you a slightly heartless, nastier person, almost as if you don't feel things any more.'

What with Liz and Zoe, who is busy explaining terms like 'bully wank', I know I won't be getting a look in. Eliza Gray, The Invisible Woman™ ®. 

We wind up with a question from the audience to Liz: 'Is it worth it?'

'No,' she says, 'it's definitely not worth it.'

'So why do you do it?' asks Geraldine.

'Well, it's a job, isn't it? If I could turn the clock back to a time before writing about myself, when I was editing, I would. But, if you take the money for doing a column, you have to literally spill your guts. I've had to move house. I came downstairs the other day and this woman was in my hallway. I wouldn't do it again, absolutely not.'

'Well, on that note...' says Geraldine a little defeatedly, looking left, to the gritty/earthy side of life, and right, to the fluffy, unfeather-ruffling side. Something bubbles up inside me. No, I think, that isn't it. 

'You say that you have to spill your guts,' I blurt, 'but that's something you've constructed for yourself. I don't think you have to spill your guts to entertain, you have to have a good ear and eye for funny or touching things. You don't have to put all the horrible stuff in.' Hmmm. Not very profound. But a strike in favour of protecting and preserving one's close relationships.

And with that, we repair to the 2nd or 28th or is it the 29th floor for a Prosecco reception? For the first, and probably last, time at such an occasion, I am not invisible! People come up to me! They want to hear my views and advice! It really could go to one's head. Along with the Prosecco.

But, out in the cold dark streets, while we revellers are knocking back the fizz, Liz is scurrying - inasmuch as one can scurry in six inch bondage stilettos - back to her laptop, where she pens a poisoned missive aimed at every Mumsnet blogger.

As I tuck up in bed with my iPad to explore the tweeting sorority, up pops a link to Liz's piece on the Mail Online. I admire her speed, but my decision not to write about her is overturned in an instant. The gloves are off, Miss Jones.

Quite apart from the fact that she mentions Zoe and Tim but not me (back to invisibility!), she seems not to have registered that the Mumsnet Blogfest was awash with intellectual working women and feminists. Who just happen to be mothers.

'The most revolutionary tool we have,' writes Liz, 'namely, free speech on the internet – has been turned into a giant WI meeting, with women being PAID to sit at home, ignore the child about to toddle into the glass wall that makes kitchen and garden seamlessly as one, and to write about being mothers...

'I wonder, too, what their husbands think of them and their rantings. I imagine it makes them feel like proper men, with little women who instead of tapping away at the glass ceiling swap recipes and tips for getting a child off to sleep.'

I wonder whether Liz is not just profoundly deaf, but profoundly blind?


  1. Hi Eliza - and firstly, the dress was perfect. Can't believe the route it took to find you! I loved your comment about having a menopausal memory block and not remembering something! But I am not in the menopause yet, so what's my excuse...

    I feel it's hard for us to beat up Liz ones on hand, because she's deaf and may have been very uncomfortable on the stage. Which begs the question - why did she agree to it?

    MInd you that's not stopped me responding to her article where I was name checked - I don't think she's a very nice person. And said so.

    I'm off now, to read more of your blog....

  2. Hello!

    I attended the event yesterday and enjoyed it very much. I thought that you were great & that what you have written above captures the event just how everyone except for Liz Jones saw it. I found the day totally inspiring & stimulating.

    I am the Simone that she mentions in her Mail column today, you might want to see my response to her which is here!

    I thought you came across very well indeed....well done you :)

    Best wishes

    1. Thank you so much! I'll head over to the bottom of the ironing basket now!

  3. Really interesting to read your view, and it's made me wish even more that I'd been there to see it for myself. I have no sympathy for Ms Jones, deaf or not, as I think it matters not at all since she chose to be there.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter. Off to share now!


  4. Great to read your version v witty! I did laugh at Jones's missive but having read your piece I realise she did classic surface skimming & didn't really connect or engage. She is deaf & dreadfully abrasive as form of self defense but again she misread the opportunity.

    Love the blog title!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I do hope it doesn't come over that I have no sympathy for her being deaf - it's having no sympathy for her being rude, and I don't believe the two are as related as she'd like to think.

  5. I saw you - you most certainly were not invisible in fact I kept my eyes focused on your lovely happy smile as I found that if my eyes wandered further right and saw the very unhappy face of Liz that the joy began to slowly trickle from my heart.

    You were a great asset to have on the panel and I enjoyed the session very much, although there was a bit of an ominous looming shadow of darkness throughout...

    Annie @

  6. You were not invisible to me I applauded your comments to her... took balls! Well done you! xx

  7. Do you know, I almost put exactly that in my post about the day. The most gracious and the warmest panelist of the day was the only one omitted from Liz's account of the event. You seemed lovely on the panel, and you were lovely when I spoke with you afterwards. She seemed bizarre on the panel, and I can't imagine ever wanting to speak to her afterwards. A total fake...

  8. Thank you lovely ladies for your comments. I might have to change my profile tag at this rate! Eliza x

  9. I thought you were brilliant, and a marvellous antidote to the Dementor Gloom of Liz Jones, which threatened to put a pall over the whole proceedings. I'm sorry I didn't get to speak to you afterwards xx

  10. Poor Liz! I couldn't help thinking she needed a long hot-skinned hug - about thirty years ago. Clearly she's created a monster by adding communal dislike to her self-hatred - while crying wolf about her loneliness, ageing, social expulsion and lack of sex. It was too easy to brand us all as daft mummies while she is a champion of - hang on - what?
    I can only think Poor Liz! Poor Liz. You don't even make me upset, you hopped on the bus of life at the wrong stop.

    Eliza you were lovely, authentic and far from invisible. Xcat

    1. It's ironic, isn't it, the one hiding under a pseudonym being authentic! And Liz behind a mask... Yes it is sad. I'm going to ring her editor today and suggest very strongly that they send her on a long sabbatical.
      Thanks :) x

  11. Blimey, I'm not surprised her husband left her if she really is as cold-hearted as she has portrayed herself to be! All of this hype over mumsnet blogfest, why wasn't I there?! Sounds as though you were fabulous and if you're blog is anything to go by, I am sure you were. This post makes for excellent reading :)

  12. Eliza, I don't think you realise what you did. While we all sat there like stunned mullets not quite believing what we were hearing you stood up for everyone and took one for the team. Said what we all wanted to say. Far from invisible you shone brightly and while others (!) might say their writing takes guts, your blog and your comments on stage take courage and came from the heart. Thank you for your bravery and for saying what needed to be said. LJ's column tarred us all with the same brush, and I am proud to be considered to be part of the crowd of intelligent, proactive and LOVELY happy people in that lecture theatre on saturday. Thank you for stepping up.

  13. Nope, you weren't invisible either on stage or in amongst the champagne! It was LOVELY to meet you and hear you speak about writing and blogging and I really did love the moment when you confronted Liz on stage with the question we all wanted to ask.

    I have long been fascinated by how scandalously wrong Liz is in her writing and so it was really interesting hearing her speak--not only her confession that she wouldn't do it this way again, but the fact that she seemed to feel so trapped in her role. What a great panel though, as you all provided great balance for each other and you especially offered opportunities for deeper discussion with the other panel members.

    Hope you do it again :)

    Oh, and great review here!

    1. Thanks so much. Lovely to meet you too. Hope we have some more Mumsnet meetups to get a chance to chat more to everyone. x

  14. I have been excited about reading this piece - from the stage - and you haven't disappointed. I didn't know LJ is deaf - it explains a little, but, like you say, not bad manners. Like you, too, my decision not to write much was overturned in an instant and I stayed up late to write my post. I thought you were great standing up to her. Nearly shouted Bravo at the time - and I think you did get a round of applause for it? Twitter was hilarious but not enough to distract from the matter in hand and your defiance! Brilliant post. Am nearly 50 and signing up to follow you. Plus you mentioned you were / are a single mum so wondered if you'd like to add your voice to my series of Stories of Single Mums - all adding weight to defy the myth of who we are perceived to be i.e. feckless teenagers, who actually only make up 2%? :)

    1. Thanks! I'll head over to your blog now! Ex

  15. Hi Eliza, it's me again over at I Don't Know How She Doesn't Do It with more readers yesterday than I've ever had before thanks to Tim Dowling and Mumsnet - and thanks for including me in your Blog Hop, I've returned the favour. All very interesting stuff above. I was so outraged when I read the L J piece that I immediately emailed the editor of Femail, who I've been writing for recently, and said boy, boy oh boy would I like to respond to that! But I'm not sure that I would really. I'm not sure she means anything she writes - it's all just copy. Let's see if they take me up on it though... watch this space! E x

  16. Liz you weren't invisible at all on Saturday don't worry. After listening to you talk at Blogfest I came home and checked out your blog. It is great.I agree that Saturday was so much more than a bunch of bored women sitting at home writing blogs. It was actually uplifting to talk to other interesting women who care passionately about the world we live in and what is happening around us. Women of all ages who are using their blogs to have discussions and even change things for the better. It's a great forum and I now actually feel proud to part of it. It has inspired me, a fledgling blogger, to do more.

    1. Thanks. Good comments - if Mumsnet's good enough for Miriam, it's good enough for the rest of us!

    2. PS - I'm the one called Eliza! :)

  17. I thought you were terribly brave taking on a complete Loon - They are very unreliable you know!
    Thought you were fab on the day and loved your written response too.
    Off now to have a wander round your very stylish looking blog.
    Lovely to meet you on Saturday - BTW.

  18. Thanks for the view from the other side. So glad to have my prejudices substantiated. I agree with you, though. Personal, difficult, wounding stuff is best left the a private journal. It's hurtful to write and mortifying to read and has evidently deprived Liz Jones of a personality.

    1. Thank you for your brilliant parody!

  19. I read this back when there were 5 comments, but I can't find one from me, so I must have got distracted and for that I apologise.

    This is a great post, following up on the event and your close contact with the female Voldemort on the panel.

    Love your pic of Miriam. I don't know how I missed her in my watching of the Royal Wedding. Won't make that mistake again. I caught most of her talk which can be found here:


    1. TVM and thanks for the video... Must now try and tackle editing mine of Voldemorticia x

  20. Hi Mrs Definitely Not Invisible, you were fab. Love this round up x