Writer’s blog: Week 37

Alright. I haven’t got time to write a daily diary. It’s the hard-bitten truth. I put in a week’s worth last month, but only to ostensibly unblock my writer’s block, which worked, as it happens. It’s something to do with exercising your keyboard fingers and jump-starting your brain. It’s more fun to write, than to write for a job. But when you write for a job and it’s going well, it becomes fun, so that’s always there to fire your turbines.

I wondered if I might get a weekly diary going, though. Just as an exercise. It may well be all about writing, but that’s the nature of the game.

Monday was a Bank Holiday. Because I’d spent half of Saturday working, and the other half traveling back to London from Edinburgh, I allowed myself the Monday off, like ordinary bank employees. Also, I drank a certain amount at a family barbecue on Sunday, with some downtime in mind.

I hit the media ground running on Tuesday, with a 10.30 meeting at the offices of a TV channel which I won’t name for fear of jinxing my livelihood. It was a good meeting, or felt like one, and if I could only live off good meetings, I’d be a rich man, but I can’t. I can only hope that I made a good enough impression, and pitched some good enough ideas, for it to lead down the crooked path to work. (I got lost on the way to the building, and then lost again inside the building. I am like Mr Bean. But Mr Bean gets loads of work, so … )

Above is a picture I took, and Tweeted, at work on Wednesday morning. The accompanying caption was something like, “Oh no! They’ve put me in a writing room that contains Quality Streets! How am I supposed to get any writing done?” It was true. “They” had. And I thought it would make a funny picture. “They” are my management company, Avalon, whose offices are far, far away in West London, otherwise I might exploit them for a luxuriously-appointed writing space more often. (Not all of their offices are luxurious. One they put me in didn’t even have a plug socket. Another was out of range of the company’s own in-house wi-fi.) As it was, I had pencilled in two half-days of intensive writing with my friend Simon Day, which could not be accomplished in the quiet of the British Library, so we went legit and got a room.

But he blew me out, on both days, for perfectly valid reasons. So I made use of the room. The room with the chocolates in. (You might argue that since my management company take a percentage of my earnings, then I am already paying for the Quality Street, ultimately. It is therefore in my interest to eat them. Or not eat them, if you look at it another way.)

I haven’t had a rented office of my own since 2008, when the financial crisis dissuaded me from such profligacy. It doesn’t really matter but here is a picture of me in my last-but-one rented office, which was shit, and leaked rain onto my laptop in 2007, because I stupidly left it there over the weekend. I never let a laptop out of my sight any more.

The British Library has, it is well documented, become my default office since then, and I find it not only vitally useful as a library, but inspiring as a workspace. I’m here right now. In the canteen. Look. I think my hair has grown up since 2007.

But on Tuesday and Wednesday I was in the offices of Avalon Ltd., working. Most who responded to my silly Tweet about the Quality Street crisis appreciated that it was not a real crisis. One, however, satisfied the predictability quota by comparing my job to one working down a mine. You know the comparison: it’s the one where my job, which doesn’t involve dangerous physical labour under the ground, comes out looking pre-e-e-etty easy. Even though I am about as self-aware as anybody in an essentially administrative job can be – crippled by self-awareness, like any good woolly liberal – it’s helpful to have the non-dangerous, non-physical aspects of my job pointed out to me.

I ate some of the Quality Streets – the soft ones – felt a bit sick, and then got on with my writing. Then Mrs Thatcher dismantled the industry I work in and I found myself on the scrap heap due to market forces and Chicago School economic doctrine.

I caught up with a really good BBC4 documentary about the Nazi death camp Treblinka last night, and found myself in sick awe, once again, at the evil that must exist somewhere deep inside every man and woman, but which is thankfully kept buried for nearly all of us for nearly all of the time. I wonder if our current Tory government secretly wishes that it, too, could simply erase a large unwanted chunk of the population – not on ethnic, religious, sexual or physical grounds, like Hitler’s willing executioners did, but on social or economic grounds. If David Cameron could send the poor of this country to their deaths, and get away with it in PR terms, I think he might. Maybe I have gone mad. Or maybe the world has.

Talking of being a liberal, if you’ve been following my boring soap opera of a life, which would struggle to find an audience if it were an actual soap opera, you’ll know that an invisible switch has been pulled somewhere deep within the Twittersphere which means that I am constantly being “followed” (not actually followed) by illiterate teenagers who really like a certain tiny pop singer, know how to make this ♥ on Twitter, and seem only to be following me because someone else they follow is following someone who follows someone who follows me, and because being “followed back” is literally their only reason for living. This is not a crisis, or as bad as being a miner either, but it’s something that exercises my mind nonetheless.

I have learned a lot about a certain demographic since this started happening: largely American, sometimes Latino, always young, as in young enough either not to be able to spell, or too buzzing with youthful energy to have time to do anything as bo-o-oring or lame as spell (or too non-English-speaking to be able to spell in English, let’s be fair), and hopelessly devoted to one of three international pop acts – a young man, an older woman, and a group. I have learned about them not through choice but because, overnight now, without fail, at least a dozen of them follow me with their ♥s and their “xoxo”s and their desperate entreaties to “follow me bak”. I block them all, which is boring, and time-wasting, because they are either following me by mistake, or because they follow anybody, or because they aren’t real (you never can tell on Twitter), or because they are using software to automatically follow people in order to accumulate “follows”. It’s a mad, self-serving, insular world, albeit one populated by millions, and I wish no part of it.

Some have asked me why it bothers me so much. Because it’s creepy? Because it’s irritating? And because I do not seek a PG audience for my Wildean witticisms and Parkeresque aphorisms and plugs and recommendations and leftist rhetoric.

Anyway, as well as the tweenies, I also found myself being followed by right-wing fundamentalist Tea Party Christian “patriots” last week. It was like a waking nightmare! At least they were adults, but again, they seemed to be passing me around and recommending me. I could find no prominent US politician called Andrew Collins, but I did, eventually, track the source of the virus to one of their flag-waving number (according to his charming Twitter bio, a family man committed to destroying the “cancer of liberalism”), who had been listing me among other “patriots” to follow. I informed him of his error, politely. And he politely apologised and Tweeted to his fellow Americans not to bother following me, as I was not “the Tea Party AC”, but “some lib from the UK.” I was so proud.

More Twitter fun yesterday, Thursday. While I was in Edinburgh, which is basically London-on-Tweed (don’t correct me geographically; it sounds good) during the various festivals, especially the TV one, I finally reached the point where my defiantly primitive 1G Samsung phone [pictured] stopped being funny. I have never owned a 3G phone. I did have an LG one two years ago with a touch-screen, but I smashed it twice, and resented paying another £40 to get it fixed, so petulantly bought the baby Samsung for £5 in Carphone Warehouse, much to the amusement of the hip young man who helped me choose it. I like to bring entertainment into the lives of others, especially if they have a job as hard as working in a mine. (Actually, maybe he thought I was a Wire-style drug dealer, who was only buying it to make one call before throwing it in the bin. Cool, eh?)

It’s not as if I am against Apple – I love Apple products and am one of their masochistic slaves – but I am trying to watch my finances, and would resent seeing £30 go out of the bank account every month just to have a fancy phone that might get stolen from my hand in the street by a child on a BMX bike for resale. I have found a good deal on a Samsung Galaxy Ace, which looks fine to me. I don’t want to watch films on my phone. I just want one that I can use to check my emails, check Twitter, check a map, and just generally check. I cannot do this on the stupid babyphone, which doesn’t even have a camera, and whose only advantage over smartphones is that it’s very small, and nobody is ever going to nick it, even if I asked them to. I have no experience with a 3G phone, but have seen them in action as nearly everybody I know has one: media friends, non-media friends, family, young and old. My stance has gone beyond noble Luddism (I can’t walk past a Spinning Jenny without kicking it) into the realms of self-abuse.

So, I asked Twitter if there was any meaningful reason with a Samsung Galaxy Ace wouldn’t do the job, and feared a barrage of abuse. None was forthcoming. Most said it did what an iPhone did, but just wasn’t an iPhone. Many gentlemen said their wives had one, and had no complaints. One young man told me he’d bought one for his Mum, and she had no complaints. That clinched it. I think I am going to get one, be like someone’s wife or Mum (respondents’ accidental sexism, not mine), and enter the early part of the 21st century, gingerly. If you think I am throwing £18 p/m (not including cashback) away, you can tell me. I will prevaricate for a few more days, I think. But I feel this was Twitter as a force for good, and not as a force for evil. I got a broad consensus, and that was very useful, as a consumer service.

And here’s today’s Commute Playlist (all new stuff from 2012, randomly sequenced, of course):

ALABAMA SHAKES Hold On
ST. SPIRIT Tooth & Nail
PADRAIG WHELAN Mex!Can Ac!D [sic]
DEAD FLAMINGOES Jealous Sailor
PAPER CROWS Changing Colours
BLUR The Puritan
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD Sweater Weather
WILD FLAG Boom
FUNERAL SUITS All Those Friendly People
KING CREOSOTE & JON HOPKINS Third Swan
THE MACHINE ROOM Your Head On The Floor Next Door
ZEBRA & SNAKE Money In Heaven (Helsinki 78-82 Remix)
THE WINTER OLYMPICS I Prefer The Early Stuff
BOXES Sharks
RACE HORSES Cysur a Cyffro (hey, it’s in Welsh)
THE SLOW READERS CLUB Feet On Fire (at which point I arrived at my destination)

The great think about this playlist is that I have whittled down loads of stuff I’ve been sent at 6 Music so that it’s all stuff I have initially liked, and now I’m roadtesting it, to see how it grabs me on second, third or fourth listen. It’s all 2012, but some are older than others. You should see the size of my Luddite’s iPod, by the way.

I’m back on 6 Music for four consecutive Saturdays, starting tomorrow. I am very pleased about this. In the first show, 10am-1pm, we’re going to “love” 1979. Get in touch via @BBC6Music if you want to play.

Stop press: just had my latest insane Tween follower on Twitter. I won’t give his name, although he’s from Australia, so that’s a nice twist, and, according to his illiterate bio, “Flirting is my game Folllow me and ill follow back”. (Imagine having so much youthful energy you don’t have the time to even read your own bio back!) Here’s his most recent Tweet: “aiming for 1.000 followers please everyone HELP ME!” I have not corrected his grammar. Maybe he really does just want 1.000 follower? It won’t be me. Have we uncovered the new, cool, 21st century kids’ version of trainspotting? Just collecting meaningless “follows” from people who have no interest in who you are or what you do? I respect trainspotters, that’s the only difference. HELP HIM!

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3 thoughts on “Writer’s blog: Week 37

  1. Re the phone – if you’re considering the galaxy ace 2 I’d definitely go for it, especially at that price, but if it is the older galaxy ace with no number there are some apps you won’t be able to download such as the iplayer one, or listen to bbc digital radio on it. I have the ace 2 and love it my mum has the ace and is annoyed she can’t listen to episodes of the archers from iplayer with it. If you don’t want iplayer or digital radio or things like that you’ll probably love it, especially if you’ve never had a phone that could do that and so won’t be irked by the comparison.

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