Happy? Blocked!

Like a fool, yesterday I let temptation get the better of me. I went on one of those ‘Who Unfollowed Me On Twitter’ sites. Such a Pandora’s box. I suppose the emotion behind doing so comes from the game-like nature of Twitter, which insists on associating one’s name with a total number of ‘followers’. As if to say, ‘this is your score in life’. So when you see the number going down, and you know there’s a site which tells you just who has had enough of you, Dame Insecurity takes over. And there they are. Sometimes it’s just strangers trying you out, and realising you’re not for them. But sometimes it’s people you were following back, people you thought were kindred spirits. Friends in real life, sometimes. One shouldn’t take it personally, but of course, one does.

On this occasion, I discovered I’d been not just unfollowed but ‘blocked’. Blocking is a Twitter button usually reserved – as far as I understand it – for those who have been actively spamming or abusing or otherwise pestering someone – it completely cuts off further contact either way. The person who’d blocked me was a music journalist I rather liked, whom I’d chatted to a few times in the Twittery way, enthusing about shared interests. I’d never had any kind of arguments with him, or bombarded him with unasked-for Tweets, and I hadn’t even Tweeted “at” him directly for a week or so. So now I’d instantly became steeped in Kakfa-esque paranoia – what had I said? It’s the not knowing that irks the most.

In order to stop myself going completely insane with worry, I did the other Pandora’s box thing (in for a Pandora’s penny, in for a pound) – I logged out of my own Twitter account in order to look at his public timeline. And there it was, a Tweet referring to blocking someone who had annoyed him because…  they had Tweeted about their essay marks. I instantly knew, with a horrible sinking feeling, that he must have meant me.

What can I say? I’d managed to get some very good marks and was really happy about doing so, and I shared this fact on Twitter. Not directly to Mr Blocker (that’s the bit I don’t get), but generally, openly. Why? Because I like it when other people do the same – I like hearing of their successes, book deals, appearances on TV & radio, babies, marriages, running marathons, all of it. I like people to be happy! And I suppose I naively thought people on Twitter thought the same.

Clearly not…

I guess one person’s idea of spontaneously expressing happiness is another’s person idea of a nauseating, undignified and smug boast.

But then again, perhaps my blocker didn’t realise how much it meant to me. Or perhaps he saw my Tweets while having a particularly bad day. Or perhaps he doesn’t realise that blocking is not the same as unfollowing. The element of not knowing goes further still, and it goes both ways. Oh well.

I don’t bear him the slightest ill-will, mind, because it was really my fault for going on that website in the first place. In fact, I’d like to apologise for annoying him, only I can’t, because he’s blocked me.

At least I’ve learned a couple of lessons, though. One is to never go on those ‘who unfollowed me’ sites ever again – it only ends in tears. Another is that I should restrain from Tweeting things about my college life – if it drove him to blocking me, it must have annoyed a few others too.

Besides, I have this diary for such things.

So, readers who find accounts of college work annoying or just boring might want to look away. For the next three and a bit years. Sorry.


This time last year I was approaching forty, and was wondering what the hell I should do with myself. My attempts at a sustainable career as a musician & songwriter, or a freelance writer, or a DJ, or a club promoter, or working in offices and shops and museums, had all fizzled out. Either I wasn’t good enough at them, or I just didn’t have the enthusiasm to keep at them for very long, or I just wanted to try something else. I was beginning to question if I was actually good at anything at all, to be honest.

Then a kind friend – Emily B – pointed out a journalism course for postgraduates, not realising I didn’t even have an A level to my name. I told her I wasn’t qualified, but thanks, and… wait a minute, that reminds me! A mothballed ambition at the back of my mind came alive, and I realised I really, really, really wanted to do a degree. I’d dropped out of A-levels after an unhappy episode at school, meaning I couldn’t do a degree at the time most people do them. Since then, it was always something I knew I wanted to do. I just had forgotten about it. Until now.

Such a wonderful feeling, to actually know what you want to do.

(oh, and there was that business about the fees going up if I left it any longer)

I’m not doing much else in my life at the moment – the degree is pretty much what I’m living for. Since starting the course last October my essay marks have been, in order, 69, 69, 70, 71, and 75. I’m putting the work in, and it’s paying off – I’m improving as an academic. For an English Literature degree, a First is 70 or above. I don’t find the work easy in the slightest – it’s hard and riddled with frustration, not least because I have dyspraxia (essentially meaning I’m slower and more scatterbrained than the average student), and it’s been over 20 years since I was last in formal education.  So, yes, I’m quite happy about my marks. If that’s all right with the rest of the world.


As it is, I worry of the common British Twitter emotion of Default Scorn. It’s actually more exhausting than cathartic, to have to join in with collective knee-jerk umbrage about some article in the Daily Mail (don’t link to it then!), or fixating on this columnist or that columnist or whatever it is today.

(stomach still aching, getting very boring now)


P.S. A few people have now told me they do like hearing of how I’m doing at college. And yes, I know this is a very petty story, and I’m being a bit thin-skinned and over-sensitive on this. It’s just being honest. Which is what got me blocked in the first place. But this is my first awareness of being blocked on Twitter, and my first and last comment on the unhappy, if ultimately ephemeral experience. I just needed to, well, unblock my thoughts on it.

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Maundy Mopping-Up

I’m spending Easter writing essays for college and hoping a rather painful stomach ache goes away. Think it’s a return of the dreaded IBS, made worse by stress over the essays. Am hitting the peppermint capsules and hoping for the best.

Recent outings…

Saturday 31 March was another stint of DJ-ing for the Last Tuesday Society, at the Adam Street club off the Strand. After I’d finished I stuck around and caught a performance by an excellent African band, Kasai Masai. Their giddy, hypnotic music  fitted the atmosphere perfectly.

Sunday: tea in Highgate with Ella Lucas, then we both wandered into town, taking in the National Portrait Gallery and South Bank. I’d been reading Virginia Woolf – Icon by Brenda Silver (1999), which claimed Ms Woolf’s photo (this one) was the best selling postcard in the NPG shop. I ask the NPG staff whose postcard sells the most today. They’re not sure, but reckon it to be between Kate Moss, Prince William & Prince Harry, the Queen by Warhol, Lily Cole, and Darcey Bussell. Ms Woolf’s face still does well though – a Woolf-branded notebook has sold out.

Monday last was the launch of Richard King’s book about the story of British indie labels, How Soon Is Now. I was kindly invited by Richard himself, and I asked my old bandmate Simon Kehoe along (from the first Orlando line-up), seeing as he’d just moved to London and was looking for things to go to. Turns out Simon had been invited too –  he and Richard were once in the Bristol band Teenagers In Trouble during the 90s. Simon also brought another bandmate along, Kevin from The Foaming Beauties, whom I met for the first time. So at some point Simon managed to assemble representatives of all his past bands in the same room – and got a photo of all of us too.

Simon, Kevin and myself started the evening in Soho with drinks at the French House and dinner at the Stockpot (a deliberate attempt to have an Old Soho evening), before going on to the launch event at the Social in Fitzrovia. The launch included Bob Stanley DJ-ing, a chat about the nature of indie music between Messrs King and Stanley with Owen Hatherley, and a short but utterly fantastic acoustic set by Edwyn Collins, backed by James Walbourne and Andy Hackett. They performed dazzling versions of ‘Falling And Laughing’, ‘Rip It Up’, ‘A Girl Like You’ and ‘Blueboy’.

Chatted to Grace Maxwell (Edwyn Collins’s partner, whom I’ve met before when my brother Tom was playing for Edwyn) and Jeanette Lee (from Rough Trade, who signed Orlando to Warners, and was once in PiL). Bought a copy of the book from a lady who later turned out to be Louise Brealey, the actress who plays Molly From The Morgue on Sherlock. Just as well I didn’t realise this at the time, as I’d downed rather a lot of wine by this point and had reached that stage of solipsistic drunkenness which is just about acceptable for friends, but deeply tiresome for strangers. I realise now I must have annoyed Lee Brackstone from Faber Books too, which I’m rather shamefaced about (sorry, Mr B). Still, it was a rare event; a class reunion of a kind, and a celebration of past lives and passions.

Tom is currently playing guitar for Adam Ant in Australia (photo of him onstage in Perth here). So proud of him.


Some new works by other people worthy of greater exposure:

New albums:

CN Lester – Ashes (available here).
Stunning debut collection of haunting, late-night torch songs. I first saw the androgynous CN play at a Transgender Day Of Remembrance service, and am so pleased they’ve released  an album. Here’s to many more.

The Monochrome Set – Platinum Coils. (available here)
An unexpected, wonderful surprise; a brand new CD by the MS, their first since the mid 90s. Arch, crooning, twangy guitar pop, sounding just as fresh as their late 70s and early 80s records.

New books:

Richard King – How Soon is Now? The Madmen and Mavericks Who Made Independent Music 1975-2005. (Richard has a blog here)
As bought at the above launch. Satisfyingly doorstop-sized, engrossing account of the history of labels like Mute, Factory, Creation and Rough Trade. Focuses on tales of music and money (the lack of it, the making of it, the wasting of it) and the way indie labels and artists took on the mainstream, not always certain of what they were doing. The notorious appearance of the KLF at the Brit Awards being a case in point.

Jen Campbell – Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops (Jen’s blog is here). Jen C works at Ripping Yarns, the used and antiquarian bookshop down the road from me in Highgate. The book collects some of the strange requests and utterations that she’s heard, illustrated with line drawings which are also rather weird, in a sweet sort of way.

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