Tell me about your Christmas – and raise funds for homeless charity


Everyone has a a book in them, or so the saying goes. I reckon I've got at least three in me. The first is a novel I started writing one NaNoWriMo and quickly abandoned – but I may come back to it another time. The second is an autobiographical book about parenting a child with ADHD that I'm partway through writing now. And the third is about Christmas.

When I was a kid I thought Christmas was the same for everyone. Every family did things the same way as we did because – well, because that's what Christmas was. And as I grew up and spent Christmas with other families I found it odd that actually their Christmas was different to my Christmas – sometimes very different.

There was the family that always ate out on Christmas Day, rather than settling down to a home cooked turkey. The family who celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. The family who hid all the presents round the house in a mad treasure hunt, and the family who opened them so slowly there were still presents under the tree at New Year. Families who covered the house in lights and others who had a single unadorned plastic tree.

Christmas is different for everyone, and when we have our own families we take the traditions we liked most and give them our own twist, creating yet another unique Christmas experience. In our family my dad put the lights on the tree and we children decorated it. In our house now it's always my job to put the lights on the tree, and the kids' to add the baubles. But whereas the presents of my childhood remained hidden away until Christmas morning, now they slowly build up under the tree, with Katie squeezing and prodding the ones at the front to work out what might be in them!

Tell me about your Christmas!

So I'll get to the point of this post. I want to write a book about Christmas, to be published in December 2013, with at least 50% of the proceeds going to someone like Shelter or Crisis at Christmas. It's going to be about Christmas – my Christmas and your Christmas, the quirks and rituals and traditions that make every family's Christmas unique. But I need your help – I need you to tell me about your Christmas, either now or in the past. You might want to tell me about:

  • Preparations – who does what
  • Christmas Eve – what happens?
  • Religion – church, mass, carols?
  • Santa – what did you leave for him?
  • Stockings/socks/pillowcase – or something else?
  • Your Christmas tree and decorations
  • Christmas Day – what happens?
  • Food
  • Traditions and rituals
  • Presents – when/where? Best ones, worst ones, strangest ones
  • Family – who visits? Where do they sleep?
  • Anything else that made your Christmas special?

You could tell me about your Christmas this year, or about Christmas in your childhood – whether that was in the 40s, 60s or 80s. You can tell me as little or as much as you'd like. I'd also love to hear about Christmas in other countries because I'm sure there are some lovely customs and traditions that we never hear about. I'd love to get as many different Christmas experiences as possible – so please do get in touch. I'm planning on using first names only in the book with contributors thanked at the end, though you can remain anonymous if you'd prefer. And remember, I'll be donating at least 50% of the profits to a homeless charity, so you would be helping a great cause.

To tell me about your Christmas you can contact me here. You can either write it down or we can talk on the phone (or face to face if you're local to me in Oxfordshire) . Alternatively leave your Christmas experiences in the comments below, or leave a note asking me to contact you. I reserve the right to edit your story but will send you a preview copy so you can have final approval. And please do share this post far and wide – I would especially love to get stories of Christmas in countries other than the UK!


Review – the first Networking Women Conference


OK I’ll come clean straight away. I’m not really a big fan of women-only networking. I go to Networking Women now and then, but only really because I do their website and like to keep in touch. Lisa and Sue, the brains behind Networking Women, held their first ever conference today and I had a ticket – but I have to admit I wasn’t relishing the thought of spending the whole day with a bunch of women!

How wrong could I be? It was a blast! Continue reading

Farewell Pash


Sometimes someone comes along who just touches you and you never forget them. Pash was that person.

I met Pash just the once, at the 4Networking Xmas party in 2008. She was tall and slim and beautiful and friendly and confident and awe-inspiring, in many ways. We kept in touch on the forum and in occasional emails and when I started my new business she offered support and help and inspired me to go for it.

Last summer Pash was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had chemotherapy and a mastectomy but had a fantastic positive attitude about it all and organised a fundraiser in Bournemouth which raised over £5000 for Tenovus, a cancer charity. She blogged about her journey and continued to inspire many.

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Oar-some 4N Oxford is just too successful!


Wow, what a morning we had in Oxford today! I recently took over this group as Area Leader and it was only my fourth visit to 4N Oxford since I joined in 2008 but today’s meeting really was great fun, despite the problems that the venue posed by just being too small! We had 22 people in the room including five visitors – sometimes it feels like a struggle to get one new person along so to have five come all at once was remarkable. I hope they all enjoyed the meeting and got a good feel for what 4Networking is all about – fun as well as business!

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4N Oxfordshire Cash4Pash auction!


Long time 4N member Sarah ‘Pash’ Howells was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. During her chemotherapy she organised a massive party which loads of 4Networkers attended and raised over £6000 for a cancer charity. She had a breast removed in December and, very sadly, was told on Boxing Day that the cancer had spread to her brain and is no longer curable. Pash is 35 and we, her friends, would like to raise enough money in Feb through ‘CASH4PASH’ so that Sarah  and her boyfriend can have an amazing holiday this year.

I met Pash at the 4Networking Xmas party in 2008 and was completely enthralled by this beautiful, bubbly, warm woman. She was also instrumental in helping me start up my business, The Proof Fairy, and passed on information and contacts who were already working in the publishing industry. I was devastated to hear about her cancer and really can’t believe something like that is happening to such a lovely person.

When the Cash4Pash appeal was launched I immediately made a donation but that wasn’t really enough … so I decided, with my 4N Area Leader’s hat on, to organise an auction across the 4 Oxon groups to raise more money. Two days in we already have nearly 20 lots including business services, a 4Networking passport, Pilates lessons, personalised mugs and an original work of art.

The auction will take place during the 4Networking meeting at Abingdon on 5th March but everyone is welcome, not just 4N members. The full auction catalogue is available here and if you would like to donate, book in or make a postal/email bid you know who to contact!

Standing room only at Oxford 4Networking today!


It literally was standing room only at 4Networking Oxford this morning as 18 people crammed into a space that would have been tight for the 16 it was laid out for! Still, it was fabulous to have so many people there and everyone seemed to have a great morning. Pity poor group leader John Batch (The Flying Doctor), who had the difficult task of breaking up all those 121s … seems there was a lot of business going on!

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A poetic morning's networking!


4Networking Abingdon decide to celebrate Burns Night a couple of days early today, and encouraged everyone to come wearing tartan and to write a poetic 40 second introduction. Everyone embraced the idea and though most people didn’t go as far as group leader Phil Strachan in the tartan department there were plenty of tartan ties, tartan scarves, homemade tartan badges and also, rather bizarrely, a pair of boy’s tartan pyjama bottoms!

However, it was in the 40 seconds round that everyone really excelled. There were some fantastic poems and it was very entertaining – but better still, everyone actually listened rather than switching off! What a very creative bunch of people 4Networkers are. Here are a few of the poems we enjoyed.

If you struggle with words,
Don’t know pronouns from verbs,
Then you need to call The Proof Fairy.

I’ll pick up your errors
and badly spelled terrors
and grammar that makes clients wary.

Perhaps it’s your website
That looks like a right sight
I’ll rewrite it, fully or barely.

With a wave of my wand
Your typos are gone
And the bill isn’t even too scary.

So just pick up the phone
When words make you groan.
You know who you need … The Proof Fairy!

Alison Neale, The Proof Fairy

Click here to read more of this morning’s poetry!