Diary Of A Twitter Convert (And It’s My Blog So If I Want To Be Grammatically Incorrect And Put Everything In Capitals Then I Will, So There)

Google, when I said Salamandermutantdogthing, this salamander dog toy wasn’t quite what I was thinking…

From now on, when people ask me what I think of Twitter, I’m going to say I think it’s amazing, I mean really genuinely amazing. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, once, I was anything but like this. As anyone who knows me personally will be well aware, I used to be one of those people with an unjustifiably strong aversion to all things Twitter-related; sitting around like some post-apocalyptic grumpy person, moaning that we don’t call each other enough (actually I do think these kind of people have a point). And it definitely wasn’t that I understood what it was all about (I didn’t). To be honest, as recently as a few months ago, I just didn’t get Twitter, and even when people tried to talk me round, I found it hard to believe that I could gain anything much from it.

Twitter, I thought, give me fish chips any day (don’t try and draw any parallels between battered fish and potato — there aren’t any, I just really love fish and chips).

I know, that’s a great attitude from an indie author who relies on word-of-mouth and social networking to sell paperbacks and ebooks (UK, US) of his debut novel (it’s called The Number 3 Mystery book. It’s more or less one big long running joke).

But there it is. Just like I mostly refuse to eat a chocolate bar upside down — it always tastes weird and wrong when you do that, getting the flavours all back-to-front, although from time to time it makes a nice change, especially with the taste sensation that is the legendary, the sumptuous Double Decker — I can be exceedingly stubborn when it comes to networking, too.

(And my fish and chips being the right size portion, too, but that’s enough about fish and chips. It’s not like I’m hopeleselly addicted or anything.)

And now I must prepare myself for the backlash, because as much as I have gained hundreds of new followers recently, I also possess a staunch army of grizzled old-school friends (and school friends) who will stop at nothing — Rambo-style — to spread evil nonsense gossip about Twitter and those who use it.

“It’s a load of crap,” one particular person whose name rhymes with slur might say. “I’ll skin a cat before I go on Twitter.”

I hope he doesn’t have my epiphany.

Another: “I’ll never follow anyone, following is for dummies.”

And another: “Chris, do you actually ever do any work? You always seem to be blogging.”

Actually that one does have a point: I am always blogging (at least right now, it may slow down soon, we’ll see). Especially recently. A lot seems to be going on in the world and what can I say? I like discussing it. Even if only with myself.

More to the point, what these narrow-minded — cue a second backlash, both on and offline — people are missing is so great that the very act of distilling it into this one blog post gives me that annoying feeling you get when you open up a tin of fish and the fish flicks everywhere all over you (will anyone ever sort out that problem?! Seriously, how come I’ve never seen anyone with an invention for that on Dragon’s Den?!).

Here, then, if you’re still reading, are my all time top-10 reasons why Twitter is amazing, splendid, wonderful (even if it makes me nauseating). And if you still want to have a go at me or send me messages pretending to be someone I don’t know with enormous breasts and an alarming fixation with Double Decker’s — you’re hilarious, Steve, really — then please, feel free.

(And if you are Steve then I really do know where you live.)

1) People who use Twitter are often bored. I am often bored and over-worked. This means that often, while I try and get away from work and take advantage of my self-employed status, I’ll look at Tweets. Because many bored people have written them, they often make me laugh.

2) People you don’t know follow you — good, kind, decent people — and send you direct messages and it makes you think I tell you what, that’s the kind of person who, if I had to, if I absolutely had to, I might (maybe) share my chocolate with. But probably not.

3) Enthusiasm: Twitterers, or whatever the hell we are, are raging-hot-missiles of enthusiasm and desire and loves and hates. I think that’s brilliant. Also, when a total stranger on the other side of the earth wishes you well, purely because they have a keyboard and eyes and you have a keyboard and eyes, snap!, there’s something really fantastic about that. This is wonderful when you have just watched Eden Lake and the world seems nothing more than a demented sphere of gone-wrong politics and hoody scum.

4) A different perspective: you may have woken up after a dream where you were wrestling a giant dog which had been cross-bred with a salamander, bright pink like a prawn and vicious as hell (a trait salamanders lack, I think, but bear with me, this is a dream), but then you sign in to Twitter and realise that other people have also had weird dreams! For example, Teddy in New York dreamed of nightmarish utopian visions where everyone looked like Sarah Jessica Parker and could fire lasers from their breasts, no!, and Lisa from London dreamed about Hawaii and how it was actually a dream — you see where this is going… — and all that sand and glorious sunshine? Sorry, it was just a very big practical joke. It makes you feel good to know that yes, other people are also weird as well. And I thought my salamanderdogthing was bizarre…

5) Twitter keeps you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the outside world. Essential when you never actually see it.

6) The world is full of lovely people, kind people, people who do care if you get hit by a bus (they just wouldn’t know it). Don’t you think it’s a shame to never interact with anyone?

7) When people re-tweet you it makes you go Ahhhhhh.

8) When people direct message you to say Thank you for following, and now I promise you eighteen steps to enlightenment and £50,000 by next week! you think: I’m so glad I’m not the only optimist out there.

9) Smiling faces make you smile.

10) When you do eventually go outside, you know more than your friends and, for some people, I tell you, that makes a nice change.

Did you enjoy this post? Well, if you did that pleases me! My disability-related comedy novel, The Number 3 Mystery Book is available in paperback here and from Amazon UK. If you live in the US, you can get it from Amazon US here. Thanks for reading and goodbye.

Want to read another post about this Twitter phenomenon? Then click here to go to Leigh’s blog!

The Birthday post

If you want to, cry on your Birthday. If you’re completely confused, it means you are really very young and set to grow up with more debt than your parents. Good for you!

31 years ago today, and thanks to my Dad’s rather eager sperm, my poor Mother – one big haired, blonde, Shirley Rita Pink of Harston, Cambridgeshire – was enduring one of the five most painful experiences of her life (three of those other occasions were giving birth to my brother and sister and I, the fourth was learning to drive – something which I am brutally reminded of whenever I get in the car on a day when she has decided to wear shoes which she wouldn’t usually wear for driving, and ideally shouldn’t. Only joking Mum, you’re a great driver! As long as you wear the right shoes…). Mum has never talked much about giving birth and how it was for her, other than to say that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Spectacularly. And my Mum is a woman who does not mince her words, I can assure you (she always says exactly what she thinks about run-away success Strictly Come Dancing, and she should know — she used to be a ballet dancer).

While a lot of people actually have annoyingly hassle-free pregnancies, where everything falls into place and the pain and the stress is minimal, Mum really suffered with all her births, especially my older sister Natalie – so much so that it’s remarkable this version of me even exists. Just imagine, or don’t, as I prefer…had I been born a few months earlier or later I might have never ended up as a freelance writer who is frequently able to choose his waking hour. I might have become a banker, I might have become anything else. And I’ve always despised early mornings, so I am grateful.

See, not only was Natalie the world’s most miniature premature baby, but with that came all kinds of terrible complications; Natalie had breathing difficulties and heart problems galore, and the stress of it all did its fair share to kick my my Mum in good and proper, too.

So one thing I have never quite understood about Birthdays, is why the Mums get so little recognition. OK, so I did my bit and somehow naturally got myself in the right position so that the delivery wasn’t too much of a nightmare — at least, compared to my sister’s exotic escape — but I had no idea I was doing that, did I? It was pure chance. I was probably just fed-up of being in that position for too long and fancied a change, as babies do. It was Mum who bore the strain. Mum who had to carry me for many months, and Mum who had to get through the agonising pain of having to look at my Dad who was getting off completely scott-free, not me. That’s why I often feel a bit weird about celebrating my birthday — the day when Mum had a horrendous C-section, and forever after her body was never quite the same. Although clearly I don’t feel that weird about it, nor have I ever protested along with many other like-minded individuals about how there ought to be a special day for Mum’s everywhere, something more personal than just a collective and commercially lurid Mother’s Day. Because this morning I gratefully accepted a number of gifts, and not once did I turn to dearest Mum and say, “Here, I feel bad accepting all these nice things, why don’t you have them all? Why don’t you take that £50 note? Would you like some 85% dark chocolate?” What I will say is that it’s probably good that I didn’t offer her the Alan Partridge book to be honest. I really don’t think she’d appreciate it as much as I will, and she’s never been much of a fan of dark chocolate (she says it’s too bitter).

Putting all the giving birth stuff to one side for a moment – watch where you put that hypothetical Placenta, please… – one of the things I really like about modern birthdays is the Facebook thing. So what if most of the people on your friends list probably wouldn’t remember your birthday were it not for the fact that Facebook automatically makes all your friends aware of it, whether they like it or not. Does it really matter that the Birthday is spoon-fed to them? Not to me. I’m bloody awful at remembering birthdays so I appreciate any help I can get. While it’s true that Facebook certainly does an excellent job of guilt-tripping all your mates into writing something on your Wall, even if some of them rarely speak to you – who, really, can resist writing on the wall when every time they log in they see that little reminder in the corner of the screen? – the act of writing on someone’s FB Wall is still something special. Sacred, in a certain kind of way that transcends the seemingly too-easy simplicity of it all. At least to me. What makes it even better, I think, is when people take it upon themselves to invent an ingenious way to say Happy Birthday. I don’t want to single any one particular person(s) out here, but it’s definitely something which helps to make the world go round. On Birthdays, you should always forgive bad grammar and spelling mistakes. You should always thank everyone for bothering: thank you all for bothering!

Lastly, Birthdays are, to some degree, all about the cards and the presents and the feeling that today is something to be remembered — for example, today will be remembered as the day I got a great jumper from my girlfriend, and the day that Nana Pink rang up to actually sing the entire long version of Happy Birthday to you… down the phone at me, without stopping once to feel besieged by embarrassment — a fine attribute which I fear only comes with age. I don’t care what anyone says about being materialistic, or how militant you are about giving and receiving gifts: it just feels good to know that someone has taken it upon themselves to give you something from the bottom of their heart. For me it’s never been about the size or cost of the item, and it’s certainly never been about asking for something specific. For me it’s just nice to know that someone cares you did exit the womb on this day.

Update: It’s been pointed out to me that this post could be perceived as inaccurate and unfair, and that it makes out that many women have easy pregnancies when this is in fact not the case at all. It’s difficult for me to say any more, without having a comprehensive understanding of it all. What I will say is that this post is based purely on my own limited experiences and I am in no way suggesting that these are the same as everyone elses.