Thursday, 10 January 2019

Bloggers About Town: A Day out with Aimee Wilson

Number 3 in my list of six things I would quite like to do in 2019 is the hope for some joyful moments that would take me out of myself. On that score my year is off to a great start after meeting up with mental health blogger Aimee Wilson last weekend.

We first met three years ago at an event organised for Newcastle Mental Health Day 2016. I was volunteering for Time to Change and Aimee was running the social media side of things. We’ve met several times since then, mostly at mental health events or volunteering. This was the first time we’d arranged to meet up as friends and we were both really looking forward to it.

One key thing we have in common is that we each blog on mental health topics, and this was very much a “Bloggers Day Out.” We both started blogging in 2013. Aimee began I’m NOT disordered in January of that year and we were also meeting to celebrate her blog’s success and sixth anniversary. With close to half a million readers, it is a success worth celebrating!

I started my day with coffee at Costa in Kingston Park then caught the train into Newcastle. I had a couple of hours before we were due to meet and called into the Central Library to visit the book Fran and I wrote, High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. It’s still a thrill to see it on the shelves; even more if it’s not on the shelves, because that means someone has taken it out to read!

Aimee was on her way by this time, and Tweeted a short vlog as she was waiting for her bus. Shortly afterwards she realised she’d forgotten the USB cable to recharge her iPhone. I was happy to pay a quick visit to the Tiger store in Eldon Square to pick her up a new one. There followed a fun exchange as we sorted out which length and colour cable would be best. (Note to self: it was never going to be the green one, really, was it?!)

I met Aimee from her bus (“It’s like being famous!”) and we headed off for the Life Science Centre. The walk gave us time to catch up on what we have been doing of late, and to talk about our plans for the day. We found we have several things in common, not least the fact that we are never off our mobile phones! For some people that would be an issue but we are both bloggers passionate about social media and it felt completely natural to be taking photos and videos, tweeting and posting as we went about our day.

I’d not visited the Life Science Centre for years but it had the same hands-on, interactive and exploratory feel I remembered so well. We didn’t get to see and do everything in the time we were there but we had a lot of fun and learned some stuff too. The first thing we encountered was a performance of water magic, showing the sticky properties of water and surface tension. The demonstrator Josh had the young audience (and those like me who are perhaps not quite so young) enthralled. All the staff we met at Life were brilliant, engaged, and friendly, which makes a huge difference to the experience for visitors.

The Making Space area is appropriate for ages 5+ which we figured included us! Demonstrator Lily showed us the choice of card models available to make. Aimee chose to make a robot; in fact she made two in the end. I was going to sit it out and watch, but before long I’d joined in too. It was a lot of fun, and far trickier than it looked! Fortunately Lily and Danny were around to give us a hand where needed. Aimee borrowed my phone stand and recorded a time-lapse video while she made her robots. It’s a technique I’m keen to try once I figure out how to do it on my phone.

We moved on to the Experiment Zone where I got to wear a lab coat for the first time in decades. We chose the fake snow experiment and did really well following the on screen instructions. We even cleaned up afterwards! From there we made our way round a few of the other areas to the gift shop, and then headed off. We’re intending to return another time to check out the Science Theatre and 4D Motion Ride, and any other bits we didn’t get to see.

We had a quick look in Primark for wellies (don’t ask) and Card Factory where Aimee picked a huge number 6 helium balloon to celebrate her blog’s birthday the following day. Then it was off to Frankie and Benny’s for pink gin and pizza (Brewdog Punk IPA for Marty). It was good to sit and reflect on our day and what we have in store for the coming months with our blogging and other projects.

I mentioned earlier that I learned some stuff as well as having fun. What did I learn?

Be bold. I am much better at starting conversations than I used to be (volunteering at public events with Time to Change has been brilliant for that) but Aimee is bolder than I am and I was fascinated to see how she engaged with people I might simply have nodded to in passing.

Keep my contact cards handy! Several times I found myself hunting for one of my cards as Aimee introduced me as an author and fellow blogger. Next time I will keep them closer to hand!

Get permission and names. Aimee reminded me to ask for permission to use any photos which included any of the staff (I was careful not to include other visitors to the centre).

Be interested. Seeing how Aimee engaged with people reminded me that you can never tell who you might meet or where a chance encounter might lead. Being passionate about your own work and interested in other people opens doors and possibilities.

Acknowledge good service and nice people. It is good to acknowledge when people have gone that little bit further or been especially helpful. Aimee gave shout outs on Twitter to the staff at Life who made such a difference to our visit, and to our charming waitress at Frankie and Benny’s.

All in all it was a brilliant day and hopefully it won’t be long before we meet up again for another Bloggers About Town jaunt.

 


Links and Guest Posts

Aimee Wilson blogs at I’m NOT disordered. You can also find her on Twitter (@aimes_wilson) and Instagram (aimes_wilson).

Fran and I have hosted two guest posts by Aimee to date: a review of the Netflix movie Brain on Fire, and an account of her interview in a cupboard for BBC Radio 5 Live.

Aimee has hosted several guest articles of ours including an author Q&A one year after High Tide, Low Tide was published, a 24 hours with piece by me and Fran, an account of my key relationships for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016, and an article for Time to Talk Day 2017.

 

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