Last Wednesday night I got a bit pissed and did something I thought I would never do. I joined Twitter
I know most normal people did this about 5 years ago, but I was always reluctant to join in. Someone who was an important part of my life lives on Twitter. I felt I could never compete and therefore kept away, instead choosing to spend my time on Facebook, which has been a good friend to me since 2007. I know we’re supposed to hate Facebook – the CIA reads your messages and according to psychologists, it promotes a comparison culture, which leads to depression and feelings of alienation. It also makes us present a false self – let’s face it Facebook is somewhere we go to tell the world we are having fun (though there are people who do go there to ask for sympathy). I also have an Instagram account – I like taking pictures of the things that make me smile. Apparently this is very good for our mental health; it encourages us to live in the moment and promotes ‘mindfulness’ – which is a GOOD THING.
So obviously my social media needs have been hitherto sated and until very recently I had no real reason to go near Twitter. In addition to personal reservations, I was also a bit frightened of it. Twitter was a place where people went to attack each other, to issue threats of death or rape and to hurl sexist and racist abuse. This world is encapsulated in Umair Haque’s article on Medium.com, where he writes:
We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop. What does that particular social phenomenon sound like to you? Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. And while there are people who love to dive into mosh pits, they’re probably not the audience you want to try to build a billion dollar publicly listed company that changes the world upon.
Not somewhere I especially want to go…
However, it soon became painfully apparent that I can’t avoid it any more. As someone with ambitions to write, I need to put myself out there. Not being on Twitter is utterly self defeating – like not owning a mobile phone or choosing to wash all my clothes by hand.
So in I jumped. I registered Lucy_Reese13 (thirteen is my lucky number) and waited for the trolls to come trip trapping over my bridge. They didn’t – all I got was a few cheery hellos from some nice friends at Camden Labour party and a few other mates off Facebook. What was all the fuss about?
I got my first troll on Thursday night -@uncle cav. Uncle Cav didn’t like my blog post defending social housing in London, though he didn’t seem especially vicious. Just right wing – but not as luridly so as @Nero, the one and only Milo Yiannopolous. I met Milo years ago and find him quite fascinating. He is rampantly gay and his favourite people are Donald Trump and Mariah Carey. Part of me has always found him funny (because he can be) but I found his attacks yesterday on Jack Monroe, the blogger turned cookery writer quite horrendous. Jack has recently come out as trans and Milo was writing the most repellent things about her/him – a classic case of attention seeking behaviour, which I think is largely what trolling is about.
I think I will hang around Twitter for a bit longer as it gives you access to such a wonderful range of people and the chance to interact with them. This morning I was chatting to the Guardian journalist John Harris, whose writing about politics and music I have long since admired. That was fun – I enjoyed that. I am a great believer in networks and Twitter is one of the most important networks of our age. Which brings me neatly to a rather wonderful book I am reading.
As I have already stated many times, I believe that we are all connected and this is something that underpins my writing and without meaning to sound like a pretentious twat, my entire philosophy of life. Mason sees networks as powerful – revolutionary even – and believes that the free flow of information and the sharing economy that has developed will ultimately destroy capitalism. It has a slight whiff of cyber utopianism about it, but it is indeed a wonderful thought.
Anyway. Back to the book, which I am sharing with you on this blog and then sharing that through my many networks.
I introduced you to celebrity activist Blake Lovelace in the last instalment – time to get to know him better.
Blake Lovelace looked up at his mirrored bedroom ceiling and saw his reflection. He liked what he saw – the tousled black hair, the snake-like sinewy body, the tattoos, the sleeping blonde woman draped over him.
He saw his eyes glitter as he remembered creeping out of Weasel’s dreary flat with her – they were supposed to have been having a meeting to discuss an action plan for the occupation of the flats. But Weasel had got so stoned that he had fallen asleep. He remembered the look in her blue eyes when his hand moved gradually up the inside of her yoga toned thigh and the little gasp of lust she made when he went a little bit further than she expected. He remembered her cheeks flushing and the look of excitement on her face when he suggested they leave the slumbering Weasel and retire to “me purple palace of sin up in ‘Ighgate”.
They had kissed furiously in the back of Lovelace’s Range Rover – misting up the tinted windows with their lust. Lucinda had arched and twisted as Blake bit her pointy little nipples, digging her perfectly manicured nails into his back. Lovelace grinned at his reflection – his old dad had always told him: “nuffink beats a dirty posh bird son” – though how he knew was a mystery, as they were pretty thin on the ground in Staines in the 1980s.
Lovelace’s reflection frowned back at him when he thought of Staines. What a complete and utter shit hole it was. Not in a picaresque way – there was no coal in the bath and they hadn’t starved in a hard to let hi-rise. The Lovelaces – Mum Shirley, Dad Norman and his twin sister Pauline – were lower middle class and lived in a 1930s semi off the dual carriageway. Norman had been in insurance but had ‘changed careers’ after a financial irregularity and now worked in baggage handling at Heathrow – the main perk of the job was getting to fuck trolley dollies, who miraculously seemed to fall for Norman’s oily charms. Shirley worked in M&S and Pauline just sat in her bedroom mooning over pop stars and TV presenters.
Pauline and Gary – for that was Blake’s given name – were both fat kids, at a time when fat kids were much less common than they are today. Driven everywhere by Norman, they ballooned on a diet of ready meals – Shirley got them free at 5pm – and constant TV. They never read books or went out, just watched TV and consumed inane magazines and tabloid newspapers. Shirley was a larger lady herself so it made her feel better that the kids were so porcine, while wiry and feral Norman nagged and teased them mercilessly.
Unlike Shirley, who was softly spoken and never dropped her aitches – you had to be a better class of person to work in M&S – Norman was common and crude and didn’t pull his punches.
“Bleedin heck, Shirl. Look at them bleedin kids. Talk about excess bleedin’ baggage. A right pair of fat caaaaaants we got here. Must take after your side, gel – let’s face it your old mum looks like a prize porker, don’t she.”
Blake winced at the slim sexy reflection in the mirror above him. A million miles away from greasy Gary ‘Lovehandles’ Lovelace, who used to enter the class room to oinking sounds in the horror show that was Staines Community Comprehensive. He looked at the toned, tattooed torso and shuddered at the memory of Gary’s white wobbly chest that at fourteen already had bigger breasts than many of the girls. He remembered Lucinda’s white teeth biting into his muscular shoulders as he ground into her; no one ever wanted to touch Gary except to poke, prod and make fun of his blubbery body.
Gary and Pauline both left school without a single exam to their names – Pauline was sad and hoped they might go on to college, but Norman told them to fucking get off their fucking fat arses and get a fucking job, because no way was he fucking keeping them now that they were fucking old enough to earn their fucking keep. Both Gary and Pauline got jobs in the supermarket; she worked on the checkout, while he moped in the car park collecting trolleys.
But then the 90s happened and Gary discovered drugs. Unlike his mates who were still stuck in school or college, Gary had a wage. Shirley was soft and didn’t charge him rent, so he had money to burn. He knew about ecstasy from his sister’s pop magazines and managed to get one of the other lads at Tesco to sell him some. It made him feel weird – dizzy and light headed – and at first he wasn’t sure about it. However, there was another more welcome side effect – it made him stop eating. Weight just dropped off him as his appetite vanished and he spent his spare time throwing himself round clubs and outdoor raves rather than festering on the sofa with Shirl and Pauline watching Enders or Top of the Pops.
Gary – or Blake as he liked to be known now (he chose the name because it sounded American and exotic) – started to get off with girls. Wild girls who wore little more than sparkly bras and mini skirts or crazy posh girls who wore embroidered dresses with little mirrors on and talked about their ‘gap yah in Indiah’. Girls loved Blake much more than they ever loved Gary and they loved him even more when he ‘sorted them out’ with pills, speed, coke and weed. Dealing drugs was so much more fun than pushing trolleys round a supermarket car park – and much better paid as well. Blake left Gary behind in Staines and moved to London, renting a tiny flat in Camden on top of a kebab shop. Blake got the housing to pay the rent and got one of his new clubbing friends – who happened to be a junior doctor – to sign him off with some mysterious – and totally fictitious – anxiety disorder. He was partying 24/7/365 courtesy of the great British taxpayer.
Blake looked at his reflection and grimaced when he thought of what came next. Someone snitched on him and he ended up in prison – Pentonville in London and then fucking Strangeways of all places. He’d come out of the Hacienda at four in the morning, only to find his car being turned over by plod. Some wankers had dumped ten grand’s worth of cocaine in the boot and twenty grand’s worth of pills. He was fucked and looking at a long stretch in a nasty Northern slammer.
Shirl had cried when he had gone down – not what she had expected for her Gary. She always hoped he’d get a nice job in an office and settle down with a nice girl and have some nice kiddies. He was a good boy – not like his dad – and he’d make her proud. She didn’t recognise the wild eyed, long haired creature that stood in the dock, a taller and more feral version of Norman. Looking at her son, she now believed Norman’s stories that his side had Romany blood – that had to explain her boy’s wayward nature. Of course she still loved him, but she wasn’t sure she really knew this strange man child standing in front of her.
Blake frowned at himself when he thought of Shirley. He really had given her a hard time, but obviously he had seen her right – got her a nice house and everything. Norman cleared off around the time he had been put away, though fortunately fat Pauline was still living at home. She had laughed – the cow – when Blake had been put away, though she laughed on the other side of her ugly face when he came out a famous celebrity, thanks to a documentary crew who had recorded Blake’s show-stopping performance of Hamlet, put on by the Strangeways Amateur Dramatic Society.
Blake’s black eyes flashed at the image in the mirror. Ha! How many people go to prison for petty crime and then come as the star of ‘Lags’, a ‘docusoap’ (it was the 90s) chronicling the life of the inmates of Manchester’s most notorious jail? How many ex-cons come out and end up on AMTV, Big Breakfast and TFI Friday? It was only a matter of time before he cornered the market in playing ‘tasty’ villains in shallow British gangster flicks, largely set in a heritage version of Sixties Britain full of dolly birds and East End geezers (as imagined by sexually confused middle class public schoolboys). Not bad for a fat kid from Staines who left school with no GCSEs and pushed trolleys round a supermarket car park.
Blake looked at Lucinda’s reflection. She looked so peaceful lying there, sleeping quietly. Blake rarely slept, especially now he didn’t do drugs – too risky and so ageing as well. He sometimes drove past his mates from his raving days and they all looked so shit – tired and old. They were lined from smoking and bloated from booze and bad food – not like Blake, for his body was a testament to a vegan diet and daily yoga sessions. In his darker moments he knew he was a pretty shitty actor – they hadn’t thought much of him in the States – and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep milking his ‘kooky Cockney’ persona. Maybe he should settle down and have kids – he could afford servants so they wouldn’t cramp his style – but this would involve staying with one woman for more than a few months and he wasn’t very good at that. There were just so many of them out there – Blake wasn’t fussy –and he loved the way they were so grateful when he fucked them. Even Lucinda had been grateful and she was a quality bird. No one had ever been grateful for Gary’s attentions – he remembered how four eyed Michelle had cackled like an old witch when he asked her out to a roller disco in 1989. The humiliation was intense – though a box of Family Circle had helped a lot. Obviously Blake wasn’t Gary any more, though who exactly was he? He wasn’t sure he knew any more.