It’s been nearly a month since I last posted on Twitter and I’ve found the break very enjoyable and surprisingly easy. I thought I would struggle but apart from a couple of bored evenings Twitter hasn’t really crossed my mind. I check every few days for replies in case I’ve been sexually propositioned, but I’m not reading other people’s tweets (not much change there then!)

One of the reasons I wanted a break from Twitter was to regain some of the many hours I lose every day to pointless social media stuff. Twitter is great when you’re stuck in a boring situation (on a bus or in a meeting) but it had gotten to the point where I would wake up at 9am, think to myself: “Oh, I’ll just check Twitter” and still find myself glued to my PC for the rest of the day. And that would be fine if I had a job and was tweeting in the background, but my situation wasn’t like that. It was just a mostly unemployed man writing a series of one-liners to a load of strangers all day, whilst they polited applauded or replied or pointed and jeered. Which isn’t quite how I want to spend my life. It’s all very well killing time if you’re stuck in a 9-5, but when the 9-5 is your life then killing time just means wasting your life. And whilst wasting my life is sorely tempting, I do want something more.

So, what have I been doing with that glorious time I’ve recaptured from Twitter? Some of it has just been wasted on Facebook. Pornography has also picked up some of the slack. I’ve also read more books and watched more films. But mostly I’ve been fairly productive, on a social level, if not always creatively.

One of the oddly compulsive things about Twitter is that you always want more. When you have 5 replies you want 10 replies. When you have 500 followers you want 1000 followers and when you have 9000 followers you want 10,000 followers, as though that is going to make a material difference to the quality of your life. And it occurred to me that rather than desperately trying to get new followers, I should spend more time getting to know the people I’ve befriended over the last year or so. And so that’s what I’ve done. I tend to avoid big Twitter meet-ups because it inevitably means you spend loads of time chatting to people you don’t really know or like and not getting the chance to speak to people who actually interest you. I’ve just been having coffee or lunch or booze with people, talking about shit and seeing where it goes. I absolutely love Twitter but it’s quite nice being a human being for a while.

On the occasions when I do check Twitter, I find it slightly bewildering. When you are tweeting non-stop you don’t recognise how quickly everything happens on Twitter, and what an insular, self-referential bubble it is. If you consider a political issue (wikileaks or student riots) then in the world outside Twitter you have the time to weigh up the pros and cons, change your mind, remain uncommitted and ambivalent. On Twitter (at least within the particular Twitter bubble I’ve inhabited) within 5 hours of something happening, battle lines have been clearly drawn. People have immediate, concrete opinions and villify those who disagree. An “awareness-raising” hashtag is developed. Someone creates a satirical twitter account in the name of one of the main protagonists. An article by Johan Hari or Graham Linehan is endlessly retweeted as though it were the Holy Grail. A Daily Mail article is retweeted as though it were Mein Kampf. A backlash starts in which a few contrary tweeters pick fights. And you start really hating or loathing Twitter people based solely on bursts of propoganda. All of this before 2pm. One of the nicest things about my break has been allowing my brain to gently expand to the point where it can entertain concepts beyond 140 characters, where there is room for a hundred indecisions and a hundred visions and revisions. Where I don’t feel the need to have an object to hate or resent. It feels like stepping off a merry-go-round and finding my bearings. Obviously, after a while it gets boring in the real world because merry-go-rounds are  fun.

When I was about 14 or 15 years old I was very unhappy at school. And I hung around a group of friends who weren’t really friends. I assumed they were friends because I saw them every day, but actually they treated me like shit. But it took me years to work out the simple fact that I didn’t have to spend time with them; that I could walk away and hang out with other people who weren’t evil twats. And my recent time of Twitter reminds me of that – not in the sense that anyone on Twitter was treating me badly, but just in the sense that sometimes you forget that you can take a deep breath and walk away; that the world will not crumble if you change friends or stop tweeting for a bit. And of course, whereas I grew to hate the “friends” at school, I really like most of the people I know on Twitter, and I love the sense of endless possibilities that Twitter offers. And yes, I will be back.

But when I return I want to be a little wiser in how I use it. I’m 35, am single, live in a room in a friend’s flat, and have no discernible career. Because I’m quite high-profile on Twitter people assume that I’ve well-connected and have some kind of media career. I don’t. I know almost no-one in the media and my job prospects are no better than they were 10 years ago. I see writers 10 years younger than me getting Guardian columns and sitcom offers – not because they are more or less talented than me, but because they make things happen. Meanwhile, I get by on odd bits of freelance work from the same old sources. But I wake up some mornings terrified that I’m on the scraphead, that whilst my peers have £60,000-a-year jobs, and homes they own, and wives and kids and cars, I haven’t acheived anything of note (aside from publishing a book 5 years ago that made me no money and was mostly ignored). And I suspect that if I want that to change; if I want to make something of my life, to feel that I have some sense of direction and purpose (even if I never make much money) then I can’t just kill the days on Twitter. I can’t just tweet endlessly in the hope that some Hollywood sugar-daddy is going to pluck me from obscurity and shower me with opportunities and riches. I have to make things happen. I’m not really sure how, but thats’ another story.

Work, bus, north Finchley

Work.  It’s a four-letter-word. A bit like fork.

For the last three years or so, I’ve mostly freelanced for the same company. I enjoy many aspects of it: I like getting out of the house from time to time, the people are good, I can work from home a lot, and sometimes the material I deal with is interesting. As time has passed and I’ve gotten better at what I do, my involvement in various projects has increased and my role has changed. In many ways that’s a good thing – it means I have more work and a greater say in how projects develop. The downside is that my role has changed from a mostly creative role to getting more involved in the management and structuring of projects. Which is something that I find quite challenging.

It also means that I end up doing things I find quite alien. For the last two mornings, I’ve been up at 6am to conduct phone interviews with employees of large financial institutions and ask them about various policies and processes. I’m up early because of time differences – I’ve called Tokyo, Mumbai, and Singapore and have to remember that it’s afternoon there. My office wouldn’t be open at those hours, so I do the calls from home on Skype. This leads to the ridiculous and surreal situation whereby I am sitting in a small, one bedroom flat, with a wonky futon and a table covered in coffee stains, the floor littered with junk, wearing tracksuit trousers and slippers and sucking on a nicoteen lozenge as I chat away to various executives and account managers in major world capitals. And I have to pretend that I have even the slightest idea of what I’m talking about. I can’t say that I enjoy it, but I think I get away with it without sounding completely out of my depth. Who knows? Perhaps they’re also at home, wearing dressing gowns and drowning in old tubs of curry.

After that was done, I needed to get out, so I took the bus up to North Finchley. In doing so, I pass by the dilapidated, depressing area at the top of Colney Hatch Lane that remains strangely nameless but holds many bad memories for me, as it was where I used to wait for a bus to secondary school. I also travel past Woodhouse college, where I spent my sixth form. Those memories are not so unhappy. The bus journey was unremarkable except for a lone figure lying motionless across the seats at the back of the bus. He didn’t move once, even when the bus reached its destination and terminated. So when I got off the bus, I mentioned him to the driver. He nipped upstairs, had a look and just shrugged and told me: “He’s completely out of it,” as though that were a medical diagnosis. Maybe he’s dead. I will check the local news.

North Finchley is a bit crap, although there are far worse places to spend an hour. And there’s an Argos, which is some sign of civilization. I went into a charity shop and was followed in by a man in a tracksuit, who looked fairly normal, but turned out to be a mentalist. As I perused the books, he merely picked up loose novels and shoved them into gaps in the shelf, before settling on piles of paperbacks and ordering them into neat, orderly stacks. He didn’t work there, he was just obsessed with the books being neat. I didn’t talk to him.

This evening it is very foggy, but I no longer have a camera phone, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Prodigy and adverts

I keep on thinking of little things to blog about – from newspaper headlines to the price/strength of cheese – but I never quite get round to it. I should buy myself a BlackBerry and blog on the move. Except that I’m not going to. Maybe I should just blog more often. Ho hum.

The week has been work and drinking and I’ve spent the weekend feeling tired and confused, which is not in itself a bad thing. This afternoon my girlfriend and I wandered around north London, in a desperate attempt to just get out of the house for a bit. It was one of those days when you spend 3 hours looking for somewhere to eat and then spend half an hour eating. Still, I managed a discreet celeb spot in Hampstead, near the Royal Free Hospital. It was none other than Liam Howlett of The Prodigy. He was dressed very strangely, like a pantomime punk in a rubbish BBC sitcom. I hardly recognised him. From the giddy heights of Hampstead, we ended up in Finsbury Park, trudging along Stroud Green Road, trying to avoid Arsenal fans.

Whilst out and about I saw an advert on a bus. It’s an ad I keep seeing for cervical smears. Now, you might imagine that such an advert would show a picture of a lady’s private parts. But no, that would be rude. So, you might think that instead they would show a picture of a lady smiling, happy in the knowledge that she’s had her smear and is as healthy as a duck. But no, instead the advert is this:


Now, I don’t quite understand the point of it.

The only possible explanation is that the man in the advert does look like a bit of a cunt, if you’ll pardon my language. If anyone does have a more logical explanation for the ad, please let me know.

Bus Video

Here’s a nice video of a journey on the 43 bus (perhaps most famous for the man who was stabbed to death by in an argument with a bloke who was throwing chips at his girlfriend). Music by Saint Etienne.

Talking of buses, today I have come to the depressing conclusion that the noble British bus queue is dead. No-one queues for buses anymore. Instead of an orderly line with a clear beginning and end, there is now just a general melee in which the person who arrived at the bus stop 30 seconds ago may well board the bus before the person who arrived ten minutes before. Given that I am normally the person who has been waiting ten minutes, I resent this.

If I ever become Mayor of London (not after Boris. Then it’s Alan Sugar’s turn) then I will force people to queue for the bus. I will also forbid people from playing music out loud on their mobiles and will ban anyone under the age of 18 from getting on a bus at all. Let them walk. It will solve the problem of childhood obesity and make the buses a nicer environment for everyone else. Two birds with one stone. Never let it be said that I’m a killjoy.