Pen Do’s and Dont’s

Welcome to the afternoon post, readers!  Anna K here.  It’s high time for a drivel post, I feel…that’s what you asked for, and my, that it what you shall get.  This is a post that’s in three very great parts:  Mahj’s wedding, body image and the Pen Do.

Get a cup of tea, it’s a long ‘un.

Mahj’s Wedding

Both pictures of Mahj’s wedding by the talented Andy Wardle.  Just breathtaking.

I know I speak for so many of us when I say we’ve been waiting far too long to see Mahj’s wedding in all its glory.  We’ve seen Mahj’s Any Other Photo, and we have read about her experience of walking down the aisle, one of the biggest crying-fests we’ve ever featured on the blog (still remember Aisling calling me up in floods ”Waaaa”, she said, ”she said she kissed him like he had just returned from WAR”).  What we never got though, was the detail of the whole day, start to finish.

It’s been a long long wait but I’m thrilled to announce that the first part of Mahj’s wedding report is up on Florence Finds for all to see, at 1pm today.  I’m thrilled that Rebecca gets to feature the wedding story of someone who has remained steadfastly loyal, full of integrity and inspires us all.  Mahj, we salute you.

Readers, go and read about Mahj’s wedding day.  Lose yourself in the photographs, the colour, the movement, the emotion.  If you haven’t passed out from how slayingly beautiful and in love she is, drop her a comment on Florence Finds.  Congratualtions, Mahj and Martin.

Like he just returned FROM WAR, people.  Sniff.

Body Image

Last week, the lovely Annabel, she of the hugely popular wedding blog Love My Dress, asked me to write a guest post.  This week on the blog Annabel is hosting a “Laid Bare” week focusing on body image, with a whole range of beautiful posts and interesting topics for discussion.

“YES!”  I thought.  “This’ll be easy and it’s exactly the sort of thing our readers would adore!”

Famous last words.  Oh my, was it tough.  I didn’t want to write about body image issues I’ve had.  We’ve all had them and it’s so hard to write something which doesn’t end up in sounding like a lament about your ill-proportioned body when, you know, there are famines going on.

So I wrote something a bit different, something that I think all ten-year-old girls (and boys too) should read.  Something that would hit home, that would make the battle with beauty that little bit easier.  Something that should be in the school toilets of every school in the country if I do say so myself.  It would have helped me, anyway.  Let me know what you think, readers.

The Pen Do

So a while back, Penny, she of Bad Penny Says, and commenter extraordinaire, had the madcap idea to invite a bunch of us to Leeds for the weekend.  “Of course!” we all said and then proceeded to email each other non-stop for four months discussing what we were going to wear, and other crucial things.  I appreciate that in this photo it looks like we colour co-ordinated, but we actually didn’t.  That’s just how in tune we all are, it seems.

Gorgeous, non?  L-R yours truly, Penny, Rebecca, Kirsty, Gemma, Bex, Amy, Laura, Lucy

The thing about meeting people online is; I’m an old pro.  After some dating disasters I met my husband online.  I’ve also met three of the most brilliant people in my whole life online.  So when it comes to meeting people off the Internet, The Fear is never really there for me.  When you read people’s blogs, you get a sense of what you think of as their authentic voice.  And sometimes, when you meet them, the difference between what you thought they would be and what they are is, to put it simply, quite staggering.

Not with these women.

They are EXACTLY as they write.  I could tell you about  what happened on the weekend, but Penny’s is funnier and I worry it will turn into a “you needed to be there because  the unicorns jumping through Penny’s ears (earrings) were REALLY GREAT”  So what I propose to do is tell you why I love each of these women, the highlights of the time I spent with them, and why the world is a better place with them in it.   And why you should read their blogs.


We met Penny in a dark bar on the Friday night and were going to bust in doing a Backstreet Boys routine because we knew we’d never be cool enough for her friends, so thought we’d go for the opposite, be the anti-cool.  Penny is so kind, and so funny, and has an imagination to rival the greatest of children’s novelists. We know she can write, Bad Penny Says makes for fantastic reading, and some of our readers’ favourite posts were written by her fair hand.  And hell can she sing.  Her warm-up track at karaoke was a sodding power ballad.  Even though she and Sam (the one she married) inform me that it wasn’t technically a power ballad, IT WAS.  As soon as she opened her mouth, none of us wanted to get up and sing, because who could follow that, hmmm?  But luckily Penny does not judge.  She’s cool, yes.  But more importantly she’s warm, and empathetic, and the kind of friend you would call on in any emergency.  Especially one that needed pipecleaners.

 Kirsty and Pensky, prior to brunch on the Saturday.  This was prior to caffeine, and they still look this good.


I’d met Kirsty before, at Any Other Party, and had a bit of a fangirl spasm, but it appeared that Kirsty had forgiven my “you’ve got amaaaazing cheekbones oh hi my name’s Anna” indiscretion.  Kirsty has a massively dry humour, and can recount a story with such a straight face that you can’t see for the tears of laughter and you can’t breathe and she’ll keep going, relentlessly.  We sang Bon Jovi together and No Doubt’s Don’t Speak (the latter is harder than it looks, people) – it was a special moment.  Look out for our album, coming soon, with a picture of Smidgen on the cover.  Kirsty mixes her Scots gallows humour with a laugh where she throws her head back.  It’s brilliant, and unexpected.  Nothing shocks her, either – this is an invaluable quality, especially when you are asking inappropriate questions over pancakes.  Kirsty writes A Safe Mooring and if you don’t read it, you should.


Bex was a bit of an enigma to me before I talked to her properly this weekend.  I knew she loved green, I knew you all went ten kinds of nuts for her detail-filled wedding post, I knew she blogged prolifically over at The Olive Dragonfly.  I also knew she was Scottish, and a dentist, and so i’d always read her writing with a Scottish accent (not a Braveheart accent, thanks Kirsty).  Point 1: her accent isn’t that strong.  Point 2: SHE SHOULD BE BOTTLED.  I have never in all my days met anyone so positive, so filled with joy, so effusive, so genuinely happy to be alive.  It’s infectious.  My favourite Bex memory – there are two vying for the top spot – going mad singing Pink at karaoke, and upon entering a vintage clothes shop, diving headfirst into a suitcase filled with silk scarves, and emerging with one in exactly the right shade of green, and waving it aloft victoriously.

Also, all these pictures if the Pen Do are Bex’s.  We all laughed at her ubiquitous camera, but it was there to document, and by golly, document it did.  I took none as I was trolleyed from two white wine spritzers (rock on, hardcore Anna K!).  Thank you Bex, for allowing me to show these pictures.

 The lovely Gemma, and a sneak peek of Kendra (my leopard-print number).  Say in an Aussie accent “Isn’t she a BEAUT?”  Gemma, not Kendra.


Gemma is who you’d call at 3am to post bail.  That’s the best way I can think of to put it.  Yes, she can make me laugh until I’m choking, yes she has a story for everything, yes she constructed a bow out of Amy’s tresses using just a pipe cleaner, kirby grips (sorry “a bajillion bobby pins”) and NO HAIRSPRAY, yes she has an almost sickening sense of style, expect you aren’t jealous because she mocks herself enough to negate the raging envy you feel at her looking good in EVERYTHING she tries on.  But the thing about Gemma is she has so much conviction and faith in the people around her, you simply can’t doubt yourself because she ALWAYS has your back.  That’s an amazing thing to experience.  She wields a devastatingly extensive vocabulary and we spent most of the weekend making up Susan Lewis protagonists who simply don’t know how beautiful they are – with their aquiline noses and their flashing eyes.

The most beautiful Penny, Gemma and Bex, looking like they were up to something


I liked Rebecca the second I met her in 2010, and I’ve liked her ever since.  There’s no preamble, there’s no bull, she’s smart, grounded and you know she’d never let you down.  As you’d expect from the brains behind Florence Finds everything she wore looked stylish but accessible, and yes, the lady rocked the pink trew.  Before we met up with her, we all spent half an hour hyperventilating with fear that she might expect us to look Friday Frock O’Clock-worthy, but she “was having too much fun to remember to take photos”.  Cue massive sigh of relief.  I love that Rebecca is so unapologetically her – there’s an integrity and an authenticity there that is rare – but she doesn’t take herself too seriously.  That’s a good mix.  She couples this with an inane sense of humour and an infectious laugh and an ability to solve any of your problems effortlessly.  She has drive, and talent, and her blog will go from strength to strength – make sure you’re along for the ride.


I may have to quote Penny’s Sam here.  Laura’s humour is “dry as f**k”.  She has an answer to everything that steals your imagination and still, somehow, remains so down-to-earth it’s incongruous.  Laura has enviable legs, and had us all in fits of hysteria with her storytelling.  We also met her husband Bedford, and although we knew it already, because no-one grins like this for someone anything less, they are perfect together.  Laura is also the only person I have ever met who unashamedly got excited when she realised “Daniel” by Elton John was on the karaoke machine.  Laura writes at Parliament of Owls and you should read what she writes because it will make tea come out of your nose.

Some of the six best legs at the Pen Do, right here.  What were you singing?  What lyric is that?  Enlighten me!  Laura is busting serious moves.


Amy is pure statuesque Amazon goddess.  Seriously.  Gemma and I spent about twenty minutes just staring at her bone structure and her symmetrical face (it’s not a myth, people).  In retrospect, Amy may have found that awkward…er, sorry Amy.  She also has the most beautiful long blonde tresses that you kind of want to touch but then realise that following the staring incident, that might be weird.  Amy was the only one amongst us planning a wedding and so was the victim of many probing questions which she fielded like a pro (oh man is she going to look beautiful on the day).  Amy welds and makes phenomenal head pieces and has the most matter-of-fact way of telling a story that you don’t realise you’re crying laughing.

The stunning Lucy Stendall, who I look like I’m interrogating


L to the Sten, what can I say?  We’ve talked before about how much we love Lucy, she’s one of the original G.I.A.T cadre, and she takes the most beautiful photographs that tell a story (Gemma’s quote “I can lose myself for hours in Lucy’s website”)  Yep, been there.  Take a look at Lucy Stendall Photography to see what I mean.  Lucy makes life better because she finds beauty in everything she sees, and she describes what’s in her head so vividly, with such eloquence, that it’s there, in front of your eyes too.  That’s compelling.  She looks pure class, and then comes out with a dirty joke and the most startling laugh that never fails to surprise and delight.  I love her.

And finally, it would be remiss to not include the picture that makes me laugh the most:

 Pen Do Plus Sam.

Thank you ladies.  I am inspired, affirmed and my sides hurt.  I would do it all again in a second.

Categories: Behind the Scenes at AOW, Body Image, Family, Friends and Relationships, Written By Anna
23 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I think that it should be spelt 'aquiline'… which is why you should have sent it to me to proof first!! But Anna… you haven't written about yourself – how you have an accent that could cut glass, how you mothered us all (ok, mainly me) so that we got where we needed to be, how you are so clever and capable you'd be intimidating… in fact, if there were prefects of life, you'd be head girl. That's what you are. You are the pretty, frightening bright, full of potential, funny, organised, approachable head prefect who still has time for the new starts.
    Pen do was awesome.

  2. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    This is amazing! Anna you have everyone pegged perfectly. What a brilliant weekend, thanks so much to everyone for coming. Can't wait to see you all again!

    WHAT is my face doing in that first picture?

    I thought I'd lost a unicorn bottom on Sunday, but you'll be pleased to know I located it under a shoe.


  3. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink


    Glad you had a wonderful time, I loved reading about it!


  4. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink


    I'm sorry, but you said it all so well there was really nothing else left to say.

    Oh, except for a wee shout out to the lovely ladies who couldn't make it – you were there in spirit, girls! We missed you xx

  5. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes what Kirsty said… you really were missed.

  6. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Oh I am so incredibly jealous you guys had so much fun!

    Oh Rebecca that dress and tights. I love.

  7. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Gemma, I have made the grammatical change…Some Susan Lewis I am!


  8. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone else blushing? And does anyone have a picture of my hair bow please? I need to show EVERYONE I know!!!


    And look forward to meeting those who couldn't go.

  9. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh it looks like you had SO MUCH FUN! And you are all impossibly stylish. I am terribly jealous.

    K x

  10. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I'm with Frankie. There is NO WAY you did not coordinate those outfits. I'm now very glad I couldn't make it – I'd have felt inadequately stylish.

  11. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    James also thought we'd coordinated when I showed him Penny's pic last night. Obviously we just have a *adopts mystical voice* 'connection'.

  12. Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I have plenty of pictures of the hair bow Amy, so not fret! (INcluding its construction!) (Writing my PenDo post tonight but not sure how I'm going to follow this now!) If you DM me your email I will send you all bow pics and any more you want! :)

    Anna – no-one has ever described me like that before – Properly grinning and actually chuckled at your favourite memories of me – that scarf find was amazing and yes, I really do love Pink! (Still can't believe I actually SANG at karaoke – only in front of you guys could I feel THAT comfortable to let out my inner Pink!) :D

    You have got everyone down perfectly and it just makes me want to kidnap you all and keep you here with me, or in Leeds so we can feast on Neon Cactus food every night!! That was delicious! (My trousers are still a little tight after the weekend indulgences!)

  13. Mahj
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    That last photo is like the spectrum of light! Love it.


    PS. Thank you so much for the lovely link to FF

  14. Emily
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Overload of fab things to read….

  15. Emily
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Overload of fab things to read….

  16. Posted February 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness, I have not read the comments yet, I'll definintely be back tonight to play catch up. Damn work getting in the way of blog reading. Anna, great post, by the way.

    You are all so pretty, and Anna makes you all sound so perfect. Can you really all be that awesome!? Wow! Your blogs are all brilliant, so it makes sense, that you are real life perfection.

    Darn having to get this planning application off my desk, I want to spend the afternoon reading blogs.

    Argh, sod it, I've got to go and look at Mahj's wedding, I just can't stay away. Planning applicaiton will have to wait a tad longer.


  17. Posted February 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink


    Sounds like an awesome weekend – you pulled it off with aplomb!

    Great writing, K!


  18. Posted February 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh my word YES!!!! The pendo-ers were a sight to behold, I loved how all the different personalities worked – perfectly represented by the colour spectrum photo, I think you'll agree. So many great moments, so much laughter, I can't help wonder why we don't do this more often…

  19. Posted February 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I had such a great time girls – and that rainbow of colours was such a sight to behold. Definite need for a fashion write up me thinks.

    I had a great time girls and I loved reading this Anna – it's always so interesting finding out how everyone else sees you…!

    Big love to you all girls and those that couldn't make it.

  20. Posted February 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Spring is sprung, Whistles had 25% off, Mahj's wedding & two great AOW posts today. Does life get better?

3 Trackbacks

  • By The Friends That Made Me Me: Bex on June 26, 2012 at 7:00 am

    [...] of the things I love about reader Bex (who blogs over at The Olive Dragonfly) is that whatever she does, she commits to one hundred per [...]

  • By The AOW Round-Up of 2012 on January 8, 2013 at 7:03 am

    [...] was something called the Pen Do.  We sang karaoke, ate too much brunch, had hi-jinks in the Premier Inn and all fell a little bit [...]

  • By Any Other Hen Do! on January 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    [...] UK was to visit Red Lion Square.  Fast forward a little, and Amy and I met (along with others) at PenDo last February and discussed our mutual love for Drina, and then I swung my wineglass into the air [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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