Back at the beginning of May I wrote that I had been nominated, then shortlisted in the Women Inspiring Woman Awards as a Rising Star/Woman to Watch. Not quite the Oscars, as I said at the time, but an honour to be shortlisted out of the hundreds of nominations the organisers had received. Thank you to the person who nominated me. You know who you are.
One of my closest friends, offered to accompany me and as it was to be an evening almost entirely female, it seemed like the ideal time to break a 15 year embargo on ridiculously high heels. I dragged my flattie clad feet around Salisbury looking for something that was a) comfortable - or at least relatively, b) likely to cause only minor injury if I fell off them and c) wouldn't cost the GDP of a small African nation.
After trying on what seemed like hundreds (but was probably only five or six) I settled on a pair of plain black patent ones with stupidly high heels. They were the only ones which didn't make me feel like I had put my feet in a cheese grater. No wonder Posh Spice never smiles. Her feet must be killing her! Shoes bought, the next vital part of the outfit was the gel insoles (you thought I was going to say the dress didn't you?). Why do M&S put the gel insoles with the socks rather than the shoes. I mean, you put them in your shoes, not your socks. That's one of those question that academics will ponder for years to come.
Back home I decided that a sensible women would at least try and break the shoes in. No-one in their right mind, especially one who's footwear of choice is a pair of red patent Doc Martens or crocs, would go out for an evening in a pair of unworn stilettos. The first problem was getting the gel insoles in. Who designs these things? They certainly aren't mean to go in shoes. They are so sticky that it's virtually impossible to get them inside the shoes without getting them stuck to the top of the shoes or halfway down. Still with a bit of perseverance, I managed to get them in roughly the right place. The shoes were surprisingly comfortable but, as I later found, totally unsuitable for hoovering the stairs. I tottered round the house, trying different walking styles, most of which made me look as if I had a hedgehog wedged somewhere unpleasant. In the end, I found that a sort of cross between a sashay and a swagger seemed fairly stable. Whether it made me look stable is open to question.
We arrived, suited and booted, or dressed and shod, at the hotel and I sashayed/swaggered/wobbled my way in, carefully negotiating the uneven flagstones at the entrance. A gaggle of glamorous women were laughing and giggling outside so there was no way I wanted to fall flat on my bum in front of them.
Inside, it wasn't hard to find the party. The sound of hundreds of female voices - and a few lone males who had braved the evening with their partners - drew us to the reception and a glass of something bubbly for my friend and an apple juice for me. Sometimes this no drinking thing is a drag!
Once the welcome drinks were over we moved on to the restaurant and found ourselves on the table plans. I knew almost no-one there so I was really looking forward to meeting our dinner partners. I wasn't disappointed. Our table was shared with some incredible women who are pushing the boundaries in business, have set up charities, work as advocates for those in need or have bought new life to rural communities. Sitting next to us was the lovely Rachel from Ewetree Bakery who very self-deprecatingly told us she had no idea why she was there as all she did was make cakes. These are not any old cakes but award winning cakes. Not only that, Rachel set up The Teffont Bakery in her little village of Teffont Magna and every Saturday, she sells cakes and pastries and serves tea and coffee (free refills) giving a vital opportunity for the older people in her village, particularly those who live alone, to meet up and enjoy the company of others. I can't stress how important this is in rural communities where isolation is all too common, particularly for older people. Since it's inception, it has grown into a little farmers market with handmade chocolates, local produce, plant and flowers.
My friend and I dropped in to see Rachel the next day and I can absolutely attest to the superbness of her brownies. We spent a lovely hour stuffing our faces with croissants and cakes - just quality control you understand - and drinking endless coffee as we watched the world of Teffont Magna go by. It was buzzy and we could absolutely see the value Rachel is bringing to her local community. I left with lots of ideas for something similar in our village.
But back to the evening... it started off with a rousing chorus of 'Man, I Feel Like A Woman' - apparently a bit of singsong is something of a tradition at the meetings of Damsels in Success, who were co-hosting the evening with Ladies Who Love...Events. Lulu, from Damsels and Catherine, from Ladies Who Love were our hosts and led the singing with great gusto. Then it was on to the awards. The categories were Woman's Role Model/Advocate, Woman in the Community, Woman in Business, Rising Star/Woman to Watch (my category), Creative Woman and Inspirational Woman.
I'm not going to go through all the nominees and winners, if you are interested you can read their stories on the Women Inspiring Women website suffice to say, I was completely in awe of the winners, all of whom were worthy. Between them they had pretty much saved the world and I was honoured to have spent time in their company.
Dinner was delicious and the conversation sparkled around the table until the last course was finished and beyond. Afterwards, we had photos taken with our fellow nominees - sadly I looked like I was sucking a particularly sour lemon so I didn't bother to buy a copy. My friend and I had every intention of joining in the dancing when the tables were moved but in the end, we crashed out in the overstuffed sofas in the bar, slipped our feet out of our heels and just chatted for hours.
It was a truly lovely evening. New friendships were forged, new networking opportunities made and the awesome power of the female of the species was thoroughly in evidence. I was a wonderful night. Thank you, dear friend, for making it possible. You know who you are. If you lived round here I'd nominate you for the 2014 awards in a heartbeat.
Guest post by womagwriter Keith Havers
3 days ago