Twitter: Melvin Croissant

A few weeks ago I wrote a bit about Twitter and “big room” syndrome. As a post-script, I shall add the following tale.

A couple of days ago I tweeted that I had talked a friend out of buying a book by a famous author. For the sake of discretion, let’s call him Melvin Croissant. I have never read any of his books, although I’ve seen him on telly a few times and thought he was a bit rubbish, in the same way that I assume Paolo Nutini and Pixie Lott are rubbish at music despite never having heard their songs. It’s not an informed opinion, just a vague feeling of antipathy.

Anyway, my friend Matthew was in a bookshop with me and was pondering buying a book by Mr Croissant. I told Matthew to get something more stimulating instead (he eventually bought a lovely book of historical photos of Muswell Hill and Highgate). I wrly tweeted something along the lines of  “I persuaded someone not to buy a book by Melvin Croissant. It felt good.” and thought no more about it.

Until the following day, when I got an email through my website from Melvin Croissant himself. He seemed quite irate that I had started a one-man campaign to stop people buying his book.

I was somewhat stupefyed, but replied saying that it had been a throwaway comment and that I didn’t actually travel the country, sneaking into bookshops and persuading strangers not to buy his books. I also said that had I known he was following the conversation I would have been more discreet. I mentioned that I had forgotten that many public figures have default searches for their name on Twitter.

Everything was amicably resolved. I have since deleted the offending tweets (mainly so you can read this blog post without searching to find out Melvin Croissant’s true identity). But I thought it raised some interesting issues. In a sense there are two Melvin Croissants. One is the public figure, in the public arena, who is fair game for criticism. And one is Melvin Croissant the human being, who probably gets annoyed when people claim that they have talked people out of buying his book.

The fantastic thing about Twitter is that it’s a great leveller. It narrows the gap between celebrities and the ordinary public. This means that I can discuss politics with politicians or swap jokes with comedians (or in some cases comedians can nick my jokes and use them in newspaper articles) but it also means that you have to be careful about what you tweet.

If I were to tweet: “My God, sometimes I want to smash Nicolas Cage to death with a large spade.” then I would consider it a vaguely amusing response to the fact that Nicolas Cage is a mostly bad actor with a ridiculous face, who has appeared in many terrible films. I wouldn’t consider it a personal attack on Nicolas Cage, because I’ve never met the man and I’ve no idea whether he’s a lovely person or an idiot. But were he to read my tweet and respond, I’d probably feel quite sheepish. We’re accustomed to an ironic distance between celebrities and the public. This allows us a safe area to play with the perception of that celebrity. Think about how many times you’ve sat in a pub or at a party, doing impressions of the idiots on television or deconstructing just why Little Britain isn’t very funny. In my case, it’s quite a lot of time. Anyway, with Twitter that ironic distance is narrowed. I’ve started being much more careful about what I say about public figures, because I now realise they may be watching me.

I’ve noticed that quite a few public figures have automated searches set up on Tweetdeck (or equivalent Twitter gizmos) to show them every time someone types their name. I would find that quite a depressing thing to do. Obviously, celebrities want to know if someone is spreading lies or slandering them, but mostly what they will find is people saying that they are fat, or stupid or handsome or annoying or look like a block of cheese. And it must be very tempting to get involved, to correct misconceptions or defend their corner – because with Twitter, unlike with a bad book review on Amazon or a withing put-down on television, the celebrity gets a chance to intervene directly in what the public is saying. If I were famous, I don’t think I’d want to know what the public were saying about me at any given time. It would probably destroy me.

Old ladies fight

Yesterday, as I sat on the 134 up to Highgate, I saw a fight between two women of advanced age. They clashed outside White Stuff in Muswell Hill. They briefly exchanged words, before the first woman (dark hair, early 60s) walloped the second woman (white hair, probably late 50s) with her shopping bag. The second woman didn’t take this lying down, and responded in kind, swinging her shopping bag with force at her opponent’s face. There was a brief stand-off before the second woman stormed off. The first woman turned and screamed: “YOU BITCH!”

It was mildly worrying/entertaining. Everyone goes on about youth crime and violence, so it was good to see the older generation doing their bit.

On the journey back home, non-comedian Roland Rivron got on bus. He got off outside La Porchetta. He looked unremarkable.

Meanwhile… my attempts to get fit have been put on hold. I’ve had a nasty cold for about 3 weeks and every time I go to the gym, it gets worse. So for now, I’m not doing any exercise other than grinding my teeth.

It is snowing

It is snowing very heavily. No buses. Limited tubes. Fortunately I am working from home today. The girlfriend managed to get into town via First Capital Connect, but is on her way home before all forms of transport are cancelled.




I went for a quick wander around Alexandra Palace but I own no gloves and my hands were turning into lumps of frozen meat, so it’s back home to wear thermals and keep the central heating on. My nostalgic joy at snowfall lasts about 2 hours before I’m sick of it and resent feeling trapped, cold and slippery. Bring on the heatwave.

Oh, and today is transfer deadline day. I don’t really think Spurs need new players. We just have to remember that turning up on matchday doesn’t actually mean you get to win the game.

Charity in the clouds

Practically every charity shop in London seems to have a copy of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m not kidding. Last week, in five charity shops in Muswell Hill, I found six copies of the book. It’s become a comforting sight as I peruse the book sections of charity shops, like bumping into a friendly face in a room full of strangers.

It’s actually a book I really like, but I can understand why so many people have discarded their copies. The narrative is quite complex, with the story handed over through time and space via a number of characters and literary styles. So, not really a book for people who don’t read that many books. Which is why it was a strange choice for The Richard and Judy Book Club a few years back. And that is probably the key reason people are giving it away in such numbers. The Book Club guarantees sales, but it doesn’t guarantee people will actually finish the book before chucking it.

This afternoon I was in Wood Green and walked back home via Turnpike Lane. There, between the saree emporiums and the kebab shops, was the most unlikely charity shop I’ve ever seen. It looked like a ruined palace and was only identifiable by the words “charity shop” scrawled on a piece of cardboard. Inside was strange. They sold old televisions and computer monitors as well as other unidentifiable electrical appliances. The book section was just three piles of books (not stacks, actual higgledy-piggledy piles) in no apparent order. On the top of the pile was a hardback copy of Cloud Atlas. Some things in life are constants.

I’m never sure if the presence of a book in a charity shop is a compliment or an insult. On one hand, it means the book is popular enough to be purchased in the first place – but on the other hand it means that it’s not loved enough to be kept on the bookshelf. I have only ever once found a copy of my book in a charity shop, and it gave me a small warm thrill, like being licked by an electric cat. I liked it.

Observations in cafes

Here are some photos.


The Menu at Jenny’s in Muswell Hill. I like Jennys because it’s cheap and unpretentious. Having said that, can you imagine how bad a hamburger would be with “tender, smoked frankfurter” on top of it? It would be fucking horrible.


An article in The Sun, which I was reading in Jennys. The thrust of the article is that there is OUTRAGE because a leading Bishop is praying for the people who killed a baby. Now, I’m not an expert on Christian theology, but I am pretty sure that you’re supposed to pray for people who have done terrible things. I believe it was Jesus who said something about turning the other cheek, but I guess Jesus never technically wrote for The Sun, did he?


A smoked salmon bagel and chips. These aren’t normal chips – they are somewhere between fat chips and wedges. I’m generally against fat chips. Nowadays you can’t seem to get normal chips – you either go somewhere like Mr Dixie’s Magic Fried Chicken, where you get French Fries in a cardboard box, or you end up in some gastropub where you get organic Maris Piper Wedges complete with Oregano-blushed skins. And I don’t want either of those: I just want chips.


Delicious Frijj milkshake, complete with a picture of Police Chief Wiggum on the side. They’ve been doing it for a while now. It confuses me slightly, because if you were going to launch a Simpsons-related milkshake, why would you use a supporting character? Aside from the fact that Police Chief Wiggum likes sweet things.

Maybe there is a sliding scale for using Simpsons characters for promotional purposes. Homer on your milkshake will cost you £1 million, Mr Burns will cost you £500,000 and Barney will cost you £100,000. You could probably get Professor Frink for about 80 quid. But those are all just guesses…

The economy is bad

Well, the economy is in meltdown and Gordon Brown is eating money faster than he can shit it out, but I don’t feel unduly worried. Much of the credit crunch doesn’t appear to have any effect on me: I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t have a mortgage and my work, although not as frequent as I’d like, seems fairly unreliable. I own very few stocks and shares and what money I have saved is in a bank that hasn’t just been bought by Zimbabwe.

I feel very much like a spectator watching the Official Credit Crunch games. The events seem somewhat surreal, but I clap politely and make the right noises when watching the highlights on Newsnight. However, I have worked out a few things. First of all, the government wants the banks to start lending to people. Given that the whole crisis was prompted by banks lending to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back, this seems a bit odd. If people can’t afford things, don’t fervently encourage the banks to give them money that they won’t be able to pay back. Ever. It’s like giving someone a spade and telling them not to stop digging until they’ve made it to the moon. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.

Also, this VAT thing. It’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it? A whopping 2.5% off the price of an mp3 player isn’t going to make me rush out to Currys and buy an Ipod. I suspect the government knows this and is thinking “Let’s annouce a change that sounds really big, but in essence will have no effect whatsoever”. I do the same myself quite often.

Of course, the real Credit Crunch news is that Woolworths might close down. That would be very sad. I can’t say that I love Woolies. No-one does, not even Mr and Mrs Woolworths, but it’s a good, practical shop. It sells things that people actually use. I live in Muswell Hill. For those of you unfamiliar with north London, Muswell Hill is now a vaguely pretentious middle-class enclave (by day anyway. At night it’s quite different) in which the local currency is houmouss. Over the course of my life, Muswell Hill has become increasingly gentrified. Every shop that closes down is reopened as a bistro, a patisserie or some kind of art bric-a-brac shop where you can buy Kandinski posters. And there are about 5 delis offering French cheeses. In the midst of all this, like a beacon of common sense, stands Woolworths. It’s the only place in Muswell Hill where you can buy an iron. Or a CD. Or a kettle. Or a plug. Or a lightbulb. It even sells cheap kids clothes, which is handy for my sister (she has a child. She doesn’t wear kids clothes herself). I imagine that if Woolies does close, the premises will reopen as a fondue restaurant or an organic pottery school. 

So please Woolies, don’t go. We’ll always need lightbulbs.

Words and pictures

A very spectacular rainbow in Muswell Hill. I kept stopping to take photos, whereas my girlfriend was totally unimpressed.


Some big, fuck-off leaves. I am increasingly amazed by leaves, and increasingly annoyed by the novels of Michael Chabon.


The fireworks at Ally Pally, as captured by the unreliable camera on my phone.  Apparently there were 50,000 people there, but I didn’t say hello to all of them.


A mighty big fry-up from my favourite caff in East Finchley. All that plus tea for about four quid. The chips were undercooked and we asked for them to be done properly. I’m English and not accustomed to complaining, so I looked at the floor throughout.


Todd Carty aka Tucker in Grange Hill, Mark Fowler in Eastenders, and the strange copper who slept with his mum in The Bill. He was minding his own business having a meal and I shouldn’t have snapped him, but I couldn’t resist.


My book, alongside Barack Obama. We go back a long way, me and Barry. Before he met me, he was going to call his book “Calypso Courtship”, but I suggested “Dreams from my Father”.