The Middle Sister

The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Is it ok to upset brands?

As a dedicated blogger, providing consistent content and good images* I eventually attracted the attention of some brands and it’s at this point I had my first blogger dilemma.  These companies asked for my opinion and I SO wanted to please them, but on occasion the item I was reviewing wasn’t as good as they had described. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of brands over the past few years - some you may not have heard of, others you absolutely will know about. Many understand exactly what they are getting into when they hire bloggers accepting they are opening themselves up to a social dialogue about their product. If these brands handle any conversations that occur with honesty and humour they generally come out well. However I’ve noticed some have a certain ‘expectation’ about what the reviews we provide should consist of. So here's a little unsolicited advice…

We are not marketers for your company.  
Our readers want to know the truth as we see it. That means 'our cross my heart and hope to die' God’s honest opinion, if that opinion isn’t 100% favourable well tough! You wanted sweetness and free publicity? Then you should have hired a marketing team and paid them a fair wage while you’re at it.

Rant alert: I was recently made aware a certain well-known brand’s PR person was annoyed at a post I wrote as it mentioned an issue I’d had with the product. I found this to be particularly unprofessional especially as they didn't see fit to mention their problem to me personally.  If they had bothered to read my previous reviews they would have seen I don’t exactly shy away from the odd controversial remark and saying a product wasn't as I'd expected isn't even that risqué! It’s just the truth.

This blog is (hopefully) choc-a-block full of tongue-in-cheek quips and balanced reviews, meaning I chat about the good, the bad and the ugly. I will hardly ever write one of those ‘it was super fun-everything was perfect-you’ll all definitely love it’ sugary sweet posts as I don't see many things that way. I will always look for the good in what I'm reviewing, whether or not I’ve been paid or supplemented for my opinion, but I'll look for what could be improved as well. And I won’t lie just to make the PR team happy**.  

Trust is difficult to earn back once it’s gone. 
There’s one blogger that comes to mind I no longer take advice from as they never have a less than glowing word to say about ANYTHING.  I understand the desire to speak positively and dealing with the backlash that can occur if someone isn’t happy about what has been written can be hard. But personally I find it insulting if there isn’t any balance at all in a post. If you can’t 'fess up to an event or product being a bit shit on occasion I no longer believe you when you say how amazing it all was. 

Honesty is my go to form for writing,  And yes I do know that doesn’t gives me free rein to spew ignorant speech or purposefully cause pain with my words, anyone that uses a platform like this to further bigoted values IS a massive dill-hole***!

I’m also up for debate as believe it or not I have been known to get things wrong… on occasion. So go ahead and tell me what you think about what I think, heck if you feel strongly enough you might even change my mind on whatever it is we're discussing. 

In case you haven’t gathered it yet I’m a little outspoken and my opinion reflects that because that’s all blogs are, one person’s opinion. The bloggers I know are all dedicated to telling their own story and I'm lucky and excited to be doing the same.  We may only be a micro influencers but aren't we the ones you trust to tell you what's really going on? 

* even if I do say so myself!
** It's also worth mentioning if I've been sponsored or paid to review a product I say this up front not at the end of a 600 word endorsement.
*** FACT!


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Review: The North Pole Ice Skating rink or How to look like a total tit!

Just so you know I'm not getting paid for any of this, I was given a session to The North Pole (Cambridge, not actual) which will feature in the post but no spondulies have changed hands.  Coolio? then in we go:

Ah Cambridge! How I love my city, our architecture is bomfunkmental, Kings College with its statues of Kings (predictably), Trinity college with its statues of Trints... Anyway we are seriously spoilt with our beautiful buildings and we decorate them brilliantly at this time of year. Cambridge really knows how to DO Christmas properly. We have some of the best lights, twinkly in certain streets, bright in others and all different colours.  To badly mis-quote one of my favourite movie heroes 'if you have the means, I highly suggest you look it up, it is so choice'*

And then just when you thought it couldn't get any better at Christmas time we get The North Pole over on Parkers Piece.  Its a little different each year and this time is one of the best set ups ever.  A fun fair and 'Austrian style' huts offering hot drinks and foodstuff are available and Christmas music plays out of speakers around the main event - the Ice Rink. I've been to the North Pole a few times, this time (while I do miss last years big wheel) I have to say they've done a great job putting it altogether.  The ice rink is well maintained and cleaned but its the staff which are the real asset.  Fun, helpful, chatty (possibly bored) but engaging none the less.  Even to a couple of ridiculously bad skaters as @lifesacatwalk and I when we turned up for our session.

There she is, looks like she knows what she's doing doesn't she? Trust me, she didn't!
When I say ridiculously bad please know this is not said with any kind of false modesty.  We were exceptionally, truly awful.  Luckily we were in good company, true not everyone was as pathetic as us but one by one the majority of the 'ice skaters' entered the rink and proceeded to stumble around the edge gripping the side for dear life.  We made the march  of the penguins look like a Russian ballet.   It was brilliant! 

We're both much better on ground than frozen water
As each year it changes we don't know what it will be like next time so if you're going to Cambridge and like either ice skating or making a complete tit of yourself its worth popping along to The North Pole.  To badly misquote one of my favourite movie heroes... again* Cambridge moves pretty fast, if you don't stop to look around once in a while you could miss it!

*Duh Ferris Bueller!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Selfie Welfare

Alrighty then! This might be a bit of long one but today I'm in the mood to chat about selfies!  In my experience, most people have one of two opinions when it comes to selfies.  Either you like taking them and do it fairly frequently, or you don't and view those that do as narcissistic arseholes.

I have some friends who take many selfies, others who I have never seen take one image of themselves the whole time I've known them.  Throughout my journey as a blogger and photographer I too, have dabbled in the taking of selfies.  Not as many as some, more than others and the thing I found most interesting is how those that don't admit to taking selfies viewed me. I say don't admit as in a study by Sarah Diefenbach* the 'selfie paradox is exposed. This states that while 82% of people say they do not wish to see so many selfies on social media 77% of people regularly take the damn things! I'm neither a psychologist nor a mathematician but even I can see there is some sort of Venn diagram of hypocritical twattery going on here. 

So why is so much shame being plastered onto selfie takers if most of us are doing it?  I was called a 'selfie queen' once, and while I'm certain there was no malice intended from the person that said this, it did feel quite 'judgey'.  Like it was something I should be at least little bit ashamed of.  As this comment was passed by someone I'm extremely fond of I felt somewhat chastised, but needed to see if they were right. And where else would you go when investigating your own image but the temple of the selfie taker... Instagram.  Its here you'll see the most images of me and I'm sure its my account (Theemiddlesis in case you're wondering) that earned me the title in this persons eye's.  
There I am with Christmas and Autumn, Two of my all time favourite things!
And this is the interesting bit. I went through each and every one of my instagram images, took away the number that were selfies and worked out that percentage. It was 18%. Yep 18 percent! In other words, 4/5th of the images I posted were of coffee, nature, fashion, events, books or the gazillion other things I am into, but it seems that 18% was much more evident than the other 82%.  And this is before Facebook took over so we can't blame the God awful algorithms**

Although this was some time ago the selfie is still a phenomenon that provokes discussion as the recent Intelligence Squared pod cast 'Me My selfie and I: Self expression in the Digital Age shows. While it highlighted that, yes in 2015 more people died taking selfies than were killed by sharks, it also pointed out that some anthropologists believe the self portrait is critical to human development and evolution.
There I am again, twice in this set.  A narcissist or someone that is comfortable in their own skin?
I really enjoy seeing my friends images and love that their selfies are included in blog and instagram posts. Furthermore, as I know more about them than the few images I see on my phone, I know these people are not overly self involved.  The thing is just because a particularly affluent, attention seeking Armenian family are the poster people of selfies, doesn't mean that anyone that takes a selfie is the same.

So next time you see someone with a camera held aloft at the perfect flattering angle, think about not judging them. Not all selfie takers are the same.  We don't all go to truly beautiful areas of natural beauty and miss the scenery because we are taking 137 pictures of our own face.  We don't all think that we invented the very act we are partaking in only 11 years ago #EyerollHilton.

Some of us are capturing a time in our lives we want to remember, a thought that's particularly important or yes having a moment of self expression.  If that makes you feel uncomfortable then maybe you should try it, you might be surprised at the outcome. 

*Professor of market and consumer psychology at the Ludwig Maximilian's University  ** Oh My God I hate it I hate it when will we wake from this nightmare***
** sorry FWP I know!


Sunday, 12 November 2017

Review: The Locker

So its been a while since I've done one of these - a full time job will do that to a blogger! But today I'm adding to my 'Coffee shops of Cambridge' series.  Why you ask? Well because the town that needs a coffee shop like Santa needs another cookie has - you guessed it - got another coffee shop.  The Locker on Kings Street opened in August 2017 and so its my duty and desire to review it for you lovely lot.  In we go!

The Cool
First off each member of staff is achingly hip with at least one or more of the required attributes of the truly trendy.  A rainbow of hair colours and ear adornments grace the personage of each gorgeous young thing that greets you with a smile and fetches your beverage.  Talking of the coffee its obvious The Locker means business when it comes to the black stuff and the barista takes a great deal of pride in both brewing and beautifying his creations.

The food also gets top marks. Simple yet wholesome their cheese toasties - and I do not say this lightly - rivals that of Urban Larder for the best in Cambridge.* It comes with a fresh salad and balsamic glaze which not only cuts through the pleasing stodge of the tangy cheese but also works as a visual aid for other hungry customers to salivate over. Vegan and gluten free choices are also available as you'd expect from a post 2015 diner.

The decor and design is a well thought out masterpiece. Low hanging light bulbs are placed strategically so as not to interrupt your dining experience** adding that inviting glow required for any self respecting eatery.  Multicoloured structural beams and pottery used as water cups are splatter painted as if by a genius toddler.*** Everything else is sleek, inviting and perfectly functional, no wobbly tables displacing your chosen drink here! 

The Quirks
Reportedly named after the owner's dog (Davy Jones so Davy Jones 'Locker') the moniker of this establishment is a little odd. Davy Jones Locker is regarded as the grave of those who died at sea.  So it seems a little strange to name a bustling, friendly cafe after something so morbid.

The Que? 
Onto the balanced part of this review, what wasn't 'quite perfect'. 
The soup: I heard the server advise the 'soup of the day' flavour no fewer than 25 times in the hour I was there.  Why it wasn't added to the completely erasable chalk board behind the counter, therefore speeding up the process is beyond me.

The coat stand: With the copious amounts of people coming and going, the current coat stand is not sufficient for its needs.  Something I demonstrated when I knocked the overly laden thing over after breathing near it.  Having to replace each coat and accessory with the delicacy required for the game of bucking bronco, I'd ask the owners get a bigger sturdier stand, two even!

Seating: Such is its popularity the cafe was full the whole time I was there with many customers asking staff if there was room upstairs.  The addition of a camera showing the availability would have shortened the disappointment felt by those that didn't arrive at a lucky time. 

But who am I kidding, as complaints go these are pretty lame.  The soup's not named, the coat stand is wobbly and the staff can't see through walls isn't much of a drawback and neither should it be.

Get yourself to The Locker if you're looking for home made foodstuff, well brewed coffee and posts for instagram.  Just get there early and be sure not to wear a heavy coat! 

*the place I declared served the best cheese toasties a couple years back)
**take note Bould Brothers
*** that's a compliment, not a criticism 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

A Wonderful Weekend - CBG Town Indoor Market

So, as promised today I'm chatting about #CBGTownIndoorMarket Cambridge's own blogger market/cake stand/creative workshop event which a bunch of us went to last weekend.

Spending time with both @girlrunninglate and @pippa_CTx - two of my favourite people - is always fun but this was super-girly-autumnal-creative-blogger-on-steroids kind of fun*.  The always chic Ama Ella Lingerie where there, which you remember, I wrote about a while ago.  Feel free to re familiarise yourself with my post though, I'll wait...

All the cool kids were present and correct.  However while I'm loving this trip down memory lane  - chatting about how gorgeous @feioiInteriors looked and how I enjoyed catching up with sophiekate@claireabellemakes and @kellyannrist - if you don't know this lovely lot it might be a bit dull for you. 

But fear not, I'm getting to the point because the real highlight of the day was the workshop run by @TheTrove. We all got to decorate letters or ampersands with gold paint, autumnal colours, glitter and flowers (doesn't get much girlier does it!). 

This was when the magic thing happened.  When you put the right group of women together and give them something creative to do with their hands its like the stars align.  We put the world to rights, I swear had any of us actually been prime ministers or presidents there'd have been peace on earth by Saturday evening! The comfort level was tangible to the point where some of us revealed a little about ourselves and in the process, became closer as a group.

At least that's how it was for me.  I'd say a stack of the good vibes were due to Pippa's mum who is one of the most vivacious people I have met in a while (she even got chatted up the new coffee shop we went to afterwards).  I find something quite soothing about being around a stable, happy member of the previous generation. Not sure what that says about me...

Anyway it was honestly one of the best weekends I've had in ages and it kind of took me by surprise.  But its the kind I like.  Have you ever had something that was going to be just 'fun' turn into something a bit more meaningful? 

*NB Not saying steriods are fun hmm'kay?
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