THE LONDON FACETWEET – THE LOWDOWN

And so here it was – the third official tweetup!  In fact, it wasn’t meant to be official at all, more of a small gathering for the ‘locals’, but a sudden surge of interest on Twitter had prompted Alison (the designated organiser) to throw it wide open to all!  And so we had people travelling down from Manchester (me), Yorkshire (Jamie), Birmingham (Sang and Stuart), Scotland via London (Carol) and best of all Jason, by coach all the way from the West Country (with an overnight return arriving back at 5am – respect to the man!) – as well as those who lived in the South East.

History was also made in that IT BECAME A FACETWEET!! Yes, not one but TWO Facebookers came along!  One was Jason of the epic coach adventure, though he admitted to being ‘bisocial’, ie dabbling in both, and one was Facebook stalwart Sarah (“I’m on Twitter but I don’t understand it!”), already known to the Twitterati as being one of #forgotten80s’ most successful requesters!  And lo! It came to pass that there was ultimately no difference between the Facebookers and Twitterati after all – we all got on stormingly well and all love the same music, and Alan and I were already talking again about a national convention by the time we left!  As his favourite saying goes, “If we build it – they will come!

But back to the start.  And an early one for me, having eagerly booked the 9.30 train, I slithered to Sale tram stop in the frost and got to Piccadilly in time for breakfast at Pret a Manger – which uncannily (or maybe not, given the extensive and well deserved Bowie airplay of the preceding few days) started playing ‘Blue Jean’ as soon as I sat down.  It seemed appropriate on so many levels and I felt quite emotional.  Took the opportunity to focus on more of my creative writing course on the train, ending up writing about my transformation from Catherine to Cat, which was only supposed to be for 10 minutes but was so cathartic it went on for about half an hour!  Was really good to have some time to myself just to think about writing, although a large man a few seats away did his best to distract me by first talking on two phones at once, then falling asleep and snoring like a lion.  Everyone kept looking at him.

Got to Euston and there was Jamie to meet me off the train, having made his way over from King’s Cross after an even earlier start, and we went to Starbucks to talk about writing and diary stuff and wait for Stuart and Sang.  Our discussions hadn’t got very far when we were interrupted by a hassled-looking young Irish couple at the next table asking if we knew where a hostel was – it transpired that they’d just arrived from Ireland, she was pregnant and they had nowhere to stay.  Luckily a Facebook message had gone round the previous day with an advice number from St Mungo’s for people who were worried about ‘rough sleepers’, so I spent the next 15 mins or so finding this number, ringing it, discovering it was wrong, going on the website and finding another, leaving a message and finally filling out an online form.  Meanwhile, Jamie became entangled in an unnecessarily complicated debate about whether their phone needed a UK or European SIM card and how they really needed to go to a phone shop and ask, which due to their seemingly rather inebriated condition seemed to be repeating on some sort of loop.  In the midst of this Sang and Stuart turned up, so Jamie escaped to explain the situation whilst I carried on trying to sort them out! (he later good-naturedly teased me on Twitter about how we’d nearly missed the tweet up because I was so busy helping the homeless, to which Jeff replied that he wasn’t at all surprised! – bless them!).

Anyway, I left the couple the phone number in case St Mungo’s didn’t get back to me (which they never did, incidentally – just hope they found them) and a tenner for some lunch, and finally we jumped in a black cab and were off!

So the provincial Twitterati duly arrived at the venue, a lovely old—fashioned pub near Holborn, with the added bonus of a landlord who was also an 80s fan, so he’d not only waived the deposit on the room but given Alison several bottles of free wine!  ACE!  These, plus the obligatory gins, were soon loosening our tongues as we greeted our old (well, not that old, but well-established) friends Alison, Alan and Stephen, and beheld a host of new faces, most of whom were not at all obvious from their Twitter avatars!  There was Alasdair (Area Man and moose fan – ha! That rhymes! As Smash Hits would say!) Mark (Blueboy1968, famed for being the one who finally persuaded Matthew to play Little Benny); John (Dryanuary –paused for this weekend only!); Joe Scaramanga (also really called Alan, but equally happy to remain Joe!); Jason (we got really VERY excited about the presence of a Facebooker!) and finally Darren, AKA Nick D Kenton and a plethora of other aliases, but currently my complete and utter favourite Drew Peacock!  Having once used this extremely dodgy name for a character in a story at school to see if the teacher would notice (he hadn’t), I burst out laughing on meeting him, only to find that most of the others hadn’t even realised!  There were roars of laughter once they did though!

And so the Facetweet got underway with some initial chatting to the soothing backdrop of Jamie’s faithful iPod (not including Ben or Cherish this time), before we all settled down to the usual format of quizzes!  Jamie had brought along his Getting to Know You quiz again, though we only had time for a couple of the questions this time, and it was great hearing from all the ‘newbies’ as well as updates from the old guard (Alan, starting off, sounded like he’d come to a therapy session! “My name’s Alan and I love the 80s….”)  I confessed to everyone that I masqueraded as @Secret80sDiary and Stephen informed us that he liked to listen in the bath, which reminded everyone of the man who’d tweeted his legs the other week and given rise to the ‘washing your wookie’ quotes!  Sang and Stuart were funny about listening together but on sofas at different ends of the room!    The quiz was in full swing when Carol burst into the room and was shocked to get a round of thunderous applause – her habit of tweeting ‘vodka o clock selfies’ meant that none of us had any trouble recognising her!

Because the pub was due to close early, the food arrived at 3.30pm, which we all agreed was a blessing as the free wine had been slipping down far too easily.  Alison had been dubious about me ordering the surprise Pie of the Day, but it turned out to be veal and parmesan, not something I’d usually choose but utterly delicious!  Whilst eating we formed teams and embarked upon Jamie’s other quiz, more of a general 80s knowledge one, where again I was reminded that the extensive 80s knowledge on which I had smugly prided myself for years was far less than I’d fondly imagined.  Stuart, Stephen and I did pretty well, but were mercilessly thrashed by Sang and Alan opposite, who won some chocolates and groovy Pac Man stickers!  The quiz was fab and had themes running through each section (ranging from fruit to George Michael!) and it’s fair to say that once again I learnt an awful lot!

This was also the point when Jamie presented Alison with a bottle of posh Yorkshire gin (they were all astounded that my bottle of Hendricks from October had lasted this long!) for her superb organising.  I took a photo of the presentation ceremony, which the next day caused a great deal of mirth between the three of us when I private messaged them both with it (Allie having an aversion to photos of herself on Twitter) and she said that actually it was quite a good one of her, but that Jamie was always photogenic, not realising he was in the same message group!  Ha ha that was funny (and of course could have been MUCH worse had he not been so photogenic…)

Then it was time to move on to the Ship, which was only round the corner by London standards (although SOME people felt it was a very long way indeed!).  This was packed, but we had a long table (made up of several small ones pushed together) down at the back and settled ourselves in for the rest of the evening.  The only problem with this otherwise excellent arrangement was that people sitting at the wall side of the table had to squeeze their way round several other people to go to the bar or loo. Or go under the table, as I did, popping up excitedly again on hearing another Bowie offering! Or simply push other people and their section of the table out of the way, as Jamie did to Sang, nearly shoving her into some men behind!

The pub had an extensive gin menu, with a variety of accompaniments to each type, which was quite overwhelming for those of us who’d not been much further than Hendricks and Gin Mare. Jamie advocated the Martin Miller for me and Sang, and the Bathtub for himself, and whilst Allie and I were waiting at the bar we noticed the presence of possibly the largest sausage rolls and scotch eggs in history! They looked even more massive given that they were next to some ordinary sized pork pies!  Still, we were all still full of food from the last pub so gave them a miss.  It was funny because it turned out that the advertised accompaniment to Jamie’s gin (burnt orange) was unavailable, so the bar lady suggested an alternative (burnt mango) and Allie felt unqualified to decide on his behalf, so scuttled back to ask him – and just as well because the mango was declared eminently NOT suitable!

Then one of the funniest things of the whole day happened (there’s always one, isn’t there – it was my arse-over-tip antics in the Reflex last time) when there suddenly hove into view an elderly-looking gentleman, clad in a long black coat and trilby hat – it wasn’t until afterwards that I suddenly realised he was the epitome of ‘the geezer with the bunny in the trilby hat’ of Arthur Daley fame – who asked if any of the stools on the other side of the table were free.  These belonged to people who’d just gone to the bar, so we said sorry they weren’t, but then he laughed and said in the most Cockney of accents, “Ha ha, don’t worry, I’ll sit on them stairs!” but then started going on about his hip operation, so we felt compelled to all budge up and offer him one of the seats!  And, well, that was that.  HE DID NOT STOP TALKING FOR ABOUT THE NEXT HALF HOUR! During this time, we found out that:

  1. His name was Archibald John;
  2. His real name was John but his stage name was Archie;
  3. He’d been in the Bill and the Sweeney and a few other things besides;
  4. He’d been in the parachute regiment;
  5. He was a Freemason and was off to a dinner with some friends, who had conveniently disappeared to the other side of the pub;
  6. He liked going round pubs chatting to people;
  7. Lots of other stuff that I can’t remember.

Being me, I politely listened to all his stories (apparently me, Jason, Stephen and I think John were all staring at him with the same glazed expression!).  Jamie, returning from the bar to find his seat taken, assumed  a sort of “Who the fuck is THAT?” expression which made me want to laugh really badly, but promptly entered into the spirit of things and got a selfie with John/Archie, and tweeted it asking if anyone recognised him off the telly!  Then I wanted to laugh even more because someone (John?) had apparently said they looked like brothers, and whilst John/Archie was holding court and I was trying to listen really respectfully (he had been in the parachute regiment after all!) I could just hear this outraged voice going, “My BROTHER? My DAD maybe, but MY FUCKING BROTHER??” and I could just feel my lips wobbling and had to really concentrate on Archie/John’s seemingly never-ending monologue!  Thankfully he moved on to talk to some of the others then, because someone else said what if he were really Matthew or ‘Facebook Sarah’ (who was joining us later) in disguise, and at this point Sang and I were simply corpsing and crying with laughter, and just couldn’t speak!   I then decided to enter into the spirit too and get a photo with Archie/John, but hadn’t bargained for him pulling me onto his knee! (Jamie: “Have you heard of Operation Yewtree?” John/Archie: “Oh, yes!”).  Anyway, he was harmless really and good fun, and his friends finally appeared and marched him off to the Freemasons’ dinner, and that was that!

Back to (relative) normality, we procured more drinks and carried on talking, and then – ta-DAAAA! – two new guests arrived, Helen Pencil (although unfortunately I didn’t get to chat to her properly as she was down the other end of the table) and Sarah from Facebook!  She and Jason knew each other of course, so she joined our end and was great fun!  We didn’t have long now before the non-London Twitterati had to go, but in that short interval we managed to discuss the show and Matthew, our respective cats, Howard Jones, the relative merits of Facebook and Twitter, our admiration for Jason and his mammoth coach journey undertaking, and discover that Sarah and I lived in practically adjoining areas of Manchester and that meeting up sometime would be ace!

So the time came for those of us heading back from King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston to take our leave.  Slightly later than we should have done, probably, because a) it inevitably took a long time to say goodbye to all our old and new friends, and b) being London on a Saturday night, it was possibly not going to be as simple as ‘Holborn tube is round the corner, and it’s only 10 minutes to King’s Cross’ – although it really should have been.   So we were on the way down the massive escalators to the Piccadilly line when there came an announcement that King’s Cross underground was shut due to ‘overcrowding’.  Dammit! Particularly for Jamie who HAD to get this train or not get home!

So we ended up going one stop to Russell Square, where I made them pose for a last photo by the sign (everyone: “This’ll probably make us miss our trains now!”) and then this was packed with people waiting for the lifts, so we cleverly decided to go up the winding stairs as ‘it’d be quicker’.  It took about 5 bloody minutes!  The stairs were massive (it must be a very deep station) and again there were so many people on them that we kept stopping and starting, and once I banged into the back of Stephen’s head!  So we emerged, somewhat panicky, and rushed down the streets veering dangerously close to the RNIB offices, until we got to the Euston Road.   Here me, Sang and Stuart took our leave of Jamie and Stephen, and I managed to trip over the pavement twice on the way back to Euston (which fact was gleefully conveyed to Jamie and Jeff in a series of on-way-home tweets later), and the three of us missed our trains! To be fair, it was partly my fault as I had 8.30pm in my head and it had actually left at 8.20pm! But thankfully we weren’t on booked trains so could get the next ones, and Jamie and Stephen (who were) had managed to get theirs, so phew!

So ended the third official Tweetup and indeed first official Facetweet.  I was hungry again by then so bought an unappetising pasty and some water to soak up the gins, and boarded the 9pm, tired but once again really happy after a fantastic day with the Twitterati and now the Facebookers too!

 

Roll on Cardiff!