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Tweeting friends …


Tweets. Source: Monette Enriquez

 

Almost two years ago I wrote about how Twitter changed my life. I still thank my lucky stars for it every day. It’s enriched my life immeasurably. I know that a lot of people don’t understand it and some don’t want to understand it but for me it’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities, introduced me to wonderful friends and widened my horizons. It’s made me laugh and it’s made me cry, and if it were to be switched off tomorrow I would mourn its loss because I would be poorer without it.

 

Back in March 2011 I did something which some might say was very stupid. I agreed to drive over 50 miles to a small Lincolnshire village and meet a Twitter friend in a pub car park. We were meeting in the evening so it was dark and when I arrived I discovered I had very little phone signal. Sandy won’t mind me saying that the word “dodgy” crossed my mind more than once as I sat in my car waiting for her to arrive. I’d given my dad every piece of information I knew about Sandy and her partner Chris because you can never be too careful. I’d spoken to her on the phone a couple of times and I knew what she looked like but you hear such awful stories …

 

A large saloon car pulled into the car park and I squinted through the glass and there she was grinning like a Cheshire Cat and waving. I got out of my car and before theirs had barely stopped the passenger door flew open and Sandy came rushing towards me with arms outstretched. She hugged me tightly and I knew everything was going to be ok. After a hug from Chris I was positive. I felt like I’d known them for ages.

 

Friendship has no distance. Source: EnabledDelirium

 

As I drove home later that night having had a thoroughly great evening I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I’d just met two of the loveliest people you can possibly imagine and I knew without any doubt that we would be friends for a very long time.

 

Two months later and I was greeted with a big hug outside York Minster by another lovely person, Nic. We spent the day eating, drinking (tea for me, wine for her – I still get teased about that), gossiping and gazing with rather bemused looks at some rather risqué artwork in York Minster. Another friendship forged.

 

A few months later Sandy, Chris, Nic and I all met in London for a day of picnicking in Regent’s Park and visiting the zoo. It was the first time Nic had met Sandy and Chris. There was much laughter over popping corks and a multitude of double entendres, some rather wonderful potato salad and a lot of chattering. We all got on so brilliantly it was hard to imagine a time when we hadn’t met.

 

Twelve months after I first met Sandy and Chris we all (Nic too) arranged to meet in York for a weekend and this time someone else, Julia, came too. You may remember we capered in a convent! Another fantastic friend to add to the list and it was Julia who was there with me last week, helping me find my courage.

 

We all meet as often as we can. Sometimes all of us together, sometimes not, but we never fail to have fun, talk a lot, laugh and eat plenty.

 

They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Sc. 1.

There have been several other wonderful people I’ve met along the way. The lovely vivacious Vix who introduced me to the joys of Brixham; Jen, simply the best person to camp with at an air show come muddy swamp or sun-scorched field; kind and generous Sal who will tramp round London in the pouring rain; and Julian and Amanda both of whom I finally met last week after nearly three years of tweeting. And there have been others.

 

Without Twitter I wouldn’t have met any of these people or shared so many experiences with them. I wouldn’t be writing about air shows or convents or steep hills. I wouldn’t be raving about Shakespeare at The Globe. I probably wouldn’t know what the Pathfinders were and I certainly wouldn’t have been to a screening of a film about finding them. And my life would be so much poorer.

 

But it’s not just about the people I’ve met in the flesh. It’s about those I’m yet to meet and those I’ll never meet; all those people who fill my Twitter timeline 24 hours a day. You’re only ever a tweet away from a kind word, a shared laugh or just a hello. Twitter can be an escape, a provider of inspiration, a shoulder to cry on, or a place to let off steam. Sometimes it’s just a place to be ridiculously silly.

 

If it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Blogging hadn’t even crossed my mind before I was inspired by other bloggers I discovered through Twitter. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be writing at all because it was fan fiction that got me writing and I’d never heard of that before Twitter.

 

I’ve discovered new music, new films, new books, new places, new food, so many new things through Twitter it’s hard to comprehend just how I ever survived without it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, there are downsides: hate, ignorance, spam, misogyny, sexism, I could go on. But, those things are downsides of life; they don’t exist solely on Twitter. And if you’re sensible, apply common sense and maybe don’t arrange to meet in a slightly less than salubrious car park in the dark (although I don’t regret this for one minute) all of that can be avoided and who knows what you might discover?

 

To all my Twitter friends, those I’ve met, those I hope to meet and those who I never will, wherever you are, I send much love and a big thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

 

 

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Source: Maik Meid.

 

Yesterday, 4th August, I was silent on Twitter. I was not alone, there were many others who were silent too but none of us had been silenced. We were not running away, we were not giving in and we were heard.

 

I’m sure many of you are aware that in recent weeks there’s been a lot in the press about Twitter trolls, or more accurately, people who send other people hateful, hurtful and threatening tweets. The target of their vitriol was initially Caroline Criado-Perez who campaigned to keep a woman on English banknotes after the Bank of England announced that Elizabeth Fry was to be replaced by Winston Churchill on the £5 note. After her campaign was proved successful with the announcement that Jane Austen would appear on the new £10 note, she started receiving threats of rape and violence on Twitter. After coming to her defence other women in the media and politics starting receiving similar threats; some even received bomb threats and that was after arrests had been made. It’s still going on. What they’re doing is a criminal offence in this country.

 

I love Twitter. It’s my lifeline. It’s what helps me to remember that I’m not alone. It gives me a voice. The people I meet there, knowingly or otherwise, support me, encourage me and give me strength. I’ve made the very best friends and those friendships extend far beyond 140 characters. Twitter changed my life and it’s shown me that no matter what happens there’s always someone willing to listen and who understands. It saddens me to think that some people’s lives are made miserable by the same thing that makes me happy.

 

I was taught that the best way to deal with a bully was to ignore them but that was at school and I was never subjected to anything that broke the law. I wasn’t threatened with violent attack or death. I still believe that we shouldn’t necessarily acknowledge the Twitter trolls and I definitely believe that we shouldn’t run away and hide from them but I was still silent yesterday.

 

I tweet everyday unless I have no internet connection. I tweet a lot. I tweet because I can and because I love it. So what could I do to show that I care and that I stand in solidarity with those who’ve received abusive tweets? Not tweet … for 24 hours; a Twitter silence. I understand why a lot of people disagreed with me and I support their right to do that. It’s their choice. This was mine.

 

Apparently the trolls are happy that they’d “silenced” us. But what they failed to understand is that they hadn’t. We were silent because we chose to be and we returned. We’re not deleting our accounts – that would be giving in. #twittersilence was trending on Twitter yesterday because everybody who wasn’t silent was talking about it. It doesn’t really matter whether they agreed or not, the fact is it got people talking about why we did it. And if the trolls were tweeting abuse in our absence then that says far more about them than it does about us. The original idea was that the silence would show what Twitter might be like if nothing was done about those who think it’s acceptable to tweet abuse and vitriol, if all those who don’t tweet such nastiness all left to find somewhere safer and abuse-free. In the end it was more of a symbolic gesture.

 

I support people’s right to tweet without fear of persecution. I support people’s right to tweet about anything they like as long as it remains within the bounds of the law (freedom of speech is not the freedom to say anything without fear of the consequences). I support everyone’s right to be silent or not to be silent.

 

I’m only one person and I’m quite sure very few people, if any, noticed I was silent. But I’m not ashamed of my silence. For me it’s an effective way of showing Twitter that I’m not happy that those who do nothing but tweet abuse are allowed to continue doing so. It doesn’t mean I’ll remain silent on such matters going forward. Twitter has changed its policies as a result of recent events and is making it easier to report abuse and this is a good thing. But I still think more needs to be done; even with these new measures people are still being threatened and I don’t believe we can’t change that.

 

 

I’m not going to leave this post open to comments because I don’t want to start a debate. I just wanted an opportunity to say “this is me” and “this is why”. I’m not stupid or ignorant this is just my opinion and my choice; I respect your right to have and make your own, please respect mine.

 

I was silent because I could be. I was silent because being silent emphasises the noise made by those who wish to silence me. While they rejoice in the silence they only succeed in furthering our cause. I was silent because people who’ve received abuse asked for support.

 

In the end whether silent or not the important thing is that we all stand against the trolls and the bullies and we don’t let them spoil what is, in my opinion, a precious gift. A simple piece of internet that unites people across countries, borders and oceans, that gives hope to those who are alone and have none and that most importantly gives everyone a voice.

 


 

Other people far more eloquent than me have also written about this:

Caitlin Moran

Helen Lewis

 

 
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This is my attempt to rediscover my writing mojo. I suppose I have good enough reasons for having lost it but recently I was asked if I’d like to participate in something and immediately knew I couldn’t do it. Not because I wouldn’t like to, but because I’ve lost all confidence in my ability to write. I’ve never been much of a blogger but I’ve loved writing. The saddest thing about not writing is that I have a story in progress…my first attempt at original fiction and after posting one chapter several months ago I’ve singularly failed to post anymore. I’m actually ashamed of myself! So I’ve had some personal issues to sort through…but in the grand scheme of things, they are nothing compared to what others deal with everyday and still manage to carry on.

 

So…I’ve decided to list some of my reasons for being cheerful to serve as a reminder that no matter how bad it seems, there is always something to smile about.

 

My friends – I have some pretty amazing friends. Friends who are always there, who understand me, who don’t judge me and who love me. I hope they know how much they mean to me.

 

My family – I might have moments where I whinge or complain about them, but let’s face it, like my friends, they’re always there. They support me, worry about me and accept me no matter what.

 

My home – It might only be rented and it might shake quite violently every time a train passes but I have a lovely, comfortable home. I’m surrounded by nice things, and it’s warm and dry and safe. Given what’s been going on in the world of late that’s something to give thanks for every day.

 

My car – This might seem an odd choice but just over 4 years ago I’d never driven a car. The thought of driving terrified me but I decided to put aside my fear and embarked on 12 months of lessons. My nerves nearly got the better of me when it came to taking the test, but I passed on my third attempt and have never looked back. Over 3 years on, I still occasionally have to pinch myself to prove that yes, I really am doing this! Driving…I love it.

 

Richard Armitage – Sorry, but I had to squeeze him in here! This is not an RA blog but you all know that I’m a huge admirer of his and if looking for reasons to be cheerful, he has to be way up there. If it hadn’t been for him I would never have met a lot of those friends I hold so dear and even though he’ll never know, I will always be grateful to him for that.

 

Twitter – Again, much like Mr A, without Twitter I would never have found a lot of the friends that are now so important to me. As I’ve mentioned before, it changed my life.

 

My musicality – I was going to put music as a reason but it occurs to me that it’s not so much the music as my ability to appreciate it and lose myself in it. I love the fact that I can sit down at a piano and play it competently (or at least I could…bit out of practice now!), that I can pick up a guitar and have it make a pleasing sound, or that I can open my mouth and hold a tune. I’m not a great musician by any stretch but I love being able to feel music and not just hear it.

 

My country – Say what you like about it, I am proud to be British. I never thought I would put this on the list but actually, after having watched the Olympics in the summer and the pageantry of the Queen’s Jubilee, I will be forever in awe of my country’s ability to put on a show, to smile in the face of the doubters and say, “look at us… aren’t we amazing!”

 

My ancestors – As part of my attempt to rediscover the things that make me happy I have recently immersed myself back into my family tree after a two year absence. For many years I’ve been researching the minutiae of all those people that have helped to make me who I am today. I’m lucky to have found some fantastic family stories and tantalising connections. But it’s not the links to the famous or infamous that I find the most exciting or that make me the most happy, it’s the ability to know so much about the lives of the ordinary people. I spent yesterday studying Merchant Navy records and crew lists (all online) to find out more about some cousins of my great-grandmother. Nothing spectacular, but I have to admit to being totally in awe of one man when I read an account of a voyage he took that ended with the words “Crew all saved”. Now there’s definitely a reason to be cheerful!

 

So there you have it.  Not an especially long list and by no means exhaustive. I’m actually really pleased that I’ve managed to write this. Maybe, I can start to think about continuing with my story…but baby steps…baby steps!

 

I’d love to hear what makes you happy if you’d like to share…

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Vulcan XH558. My photo.

 

When my friend Juliet, a self-confessed lover of all things relating to aviation, suggested that I might like to go with her to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford, I jumped at the chance! When asked if I fancied camping too I blithely agreed imagining a weekend of sun, fun and maybe some booze. It was going to be July, it would be perfect! I’ve always loved fast cars and the roar of their engines so moving on to jets seemed a natural progression.

 

As we all know, the great British summer has pretty much failed to appear this year and as I drove down to Fairford on the Friday (July 6th) my progress was hindered by large amounts of standing water on the motorways and non-stop torrential rain. I was dreading arriving at the campsite and sleeping in a tent seemed very unappealing. I began to wonder what on earth I was letting myself in for.

 

When we finally arrived at the campsite, a field only used for camping for this one week of the year, all my fears were realised. We were met by a sea of mud at the entrance. Getting out of our cars we gingerly made our way across the mud (me still optimistically wearing sandals) to register and pay. Formalities out of the way, we were told to wait in our cars until someone came to push us into the site. Yes…we had to be pushed through the sea of mud! I don’t use the word sea lightly: as my small Toyota Yaris was pushed across the mud, wheels spinning and engine over-revving, it felt as if it was floating, I had no control whatsoever and that was quite scary. Juliet’s car faired no better, but being a lot bigger and sitting a lot lower than mine, it kicked up so much mud the poor guys pushing it were left absolutely covered in it. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t laugh!

 

Once we’d found somewhere to pitch the tent we had the unenviable task of doing just that. I’d never seen it before and Juliet had only put it up once with assistance plus, it was pouring with rain and the ground was uneven. The tent was huge which made trying to get it up with only 2 people and a lot of water particularly tricky so we managed, by looking suitably helpless, to garner the assistance of a rather inebriated, but luckily capable and kindly man. He enlisted his dad’s help and between us we eventually got the tent pitched and habitable. I don’t think either of us had ever been called “babes” so many times in such a short space of time and we were rather shocked by the size of his flick knife but, incredibly grateful for the help.

 

Settled, fed and watered but somewhat muddy and exhausted we sat in our respective ends of the tent wrapped in our sleeping bags and talked until it was time to attempt sleeping. Surprisingly sleep came easily and we weren’t woken until 5:15am the next morning when a truck came to empty the portaloos which were next to our tent. I wouldn’t normally advocate the pitching of a tent next to the toilets but when camped in a mud bath it’s the best place to be!

 

The walk to the entrance of the air field was about a mile with at least another half a mile inside to get through security and to where we wanted to be. Wet and muggy weather coupled with my total lack of fitness was exhausting! However, once we’d found somewhere to sit down and the air show started I was mesmerised.

 

Despite the doggedly persistent rain I was completely hooked by the displays, the roar of the engines and the smell of the jet fuel. The camera my parents kindly bought me for my birthday, and which I have yet to fully master, proved to be a winner, capturing a surprising number of decent pictures and even some video.

 

The highlights of that first day for me were the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Red Arrows; having never seen any of it before I was truly moved. The comedy moment of the day came when the commentator for the Black Eagles (Korean Air Force display team) announced quite seriously: “Black Eagles now from your behind”. The result was a missed photo opportunity because we were doubled up with laughter!

 

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – Lancaster PA474, and Spitfires AB910 & P7350. My photo.

The Red Arrows. My photo.

The Black Eagles (Korean Air Force). My photo.

 

The walk back to the campsite was excruciating. Tired and achy from sitting on the grass all day and suffering the effects of having worn uncomfortable trainers, I just about managed not to limp and so avoided looking too pathetic. The rain, which we thought had stopped, started again with a vengeance once we were back in the tent and after several attempts to keep the stove alight so that Juliet could cook herself some sausages (I won’t relay here what her Twitter followers thought she was trying to cook), we resorted to chocolate biscuits for tea. The stove seemed determined to blow us up and blow out every few minutes, shooting fire out of every available hole before going out and needing to be relit. It settled down long enough to boil the kettle for some much needed tea and coffee which was just as well because by this time I was so cold my teeth were chattering!

 

After I’d had a fight with a large moth, we cocooned ourselves in our sleeping bags and talked until we were almost asleep. It’s amazing how much we found to talk about over the weekend! Juliet and I originally met on Twitter and over the last couple of years have become very good friends, but this was the first time we’d spent any significant amount of time together. I did warn her that I snore but she claims not to have heard a thing, although what was going to be a two-man tent turned out to be a four-man one with separate bedrooms. She swears blind this was nothing to do with my nocturnal noise-making but I’m sure I could give any fast-jet a run for its money!

 

I woke really early again the next morning disturbed by the torrential rain beating down on the canvas. Turning over I spied what I thought was a piece of grass stuck to the outside of the inner tent. It turned out to be a rather long slug which I thanked my lucky stars wasn’t inside the tent with me! I hate slugs and they were everywhere…one even took refuge in an open tube of Pringles!

 

So, after breakfast we set off to enjoy day two of RIAT, armed this time with our folding chairs so to avoid sitting on the wet grass. I was determined not to wear my trainers all day again so I just wore them for crossing the mud and then changed into my sandals. My toes had never been so grateful!

 

We decided to spend some time standing at the end of the runway outside the air field. It’s a good place to stand especially when planes come into land but we had no expectations about what we might see, we just hoped we’d get lucky. And quite frankly, we couldn’t have been luckier.

 

We’d only been standing there for a short time when we saw the Vulcan taxi onto the runway; it was facing away from us so we braced ourselves for the noise. If you’re unfamiliar with the Vulcan then it sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It howls…quite literally…and it’s a sound that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The video below is someone else’s but this is what we heard:

 

 

To top off the amazing display by this “tin triangle” we were privileged to experience the beautiful Vulcan coming into land directly over our heads. She looked close enough to touch and all I could do was put my camera down, stand there and drink it in (the photo at the top of the blog was taken just before I put my camera down). She is simply awe-inspiring.

 

The sound of many of the aircraft is astonishing and we were perfectly positioned on both days to bear the full brunt of the roar as they took off. The F-16 Fighting Falcon, MiG-29, F-18 Super Hornet, Typhoon and Tornado all have their own especially strident voices. The noise reverberates through your body, you feel it deep in the pit of your stomach and it’s the best feeling ever. So many people were wearing ear-defenders and I’m sure many more were wearing earplugs and although I had taken earplugs with me, I never once contemplated putting them in. To be honest the sound was not as deafening as I expected, it was more of an all-consuming sensation than simply a loud noise and every time I heard it I couldn’t take the smile off my face.

 

Despite the cold and wet conditions I didn’t really want to leave but we had to get back to the campsite earlier on the Sunday to strike camp because I had another adventure in Devon planned immediately afterwards. As we left the airfield we found that the sun was shining and once away from the more exposed areas it was actually very hot. Surprisingly we ended up getting sunburnt walking back! Of course as soon as we approached the campsite the heavens opened and it started to rain again. The tent was much easier to take down than it had been to put up and we managed to do it without the services of a man. Whilst packing the cars we were wonderfully entertained by the Red Arrows displaying over our heads; a perfect end to a fabulous weekend.

 

And so sadly, our muddied and jet-fuelled weekend came to an end. We were dirty, exhausted and aching all over but it was worth it and I’d do it all over again.

 

The pictures above can be enlarged by clicking on them and more pictures of these and other aircraft can be viewed by using the link to my Flickr on the right-hand side.

 

With special thanks to Juliet for inviting me to join her and for making my first air show perfect even with the mud. Love you lots xxx

 

 

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York Minster. My photo.


So where is the best place to stay in York for five friends on a mission to have a weekend of laughing, drinking, and ghost hunting? Apparently it’s a convent. Yes, that’s right, a convent…and a working one too!


The weekend was planned long in advance but trying to find a cheap place to stay for only one night is not very easy in York, so we opted to stay in the rather charming Bar Convent. It is, in fact, England’s oldest convent but in recent years they’ve started offering bed and breakfast accommodation and also run a cafe. My single room was very small, as you might imagine a nun’s cell to be, but it had everything you expect to find in a hotel room and was warm and comfortable. I would not hesitate to stay there again or recommend it and I don’t believe I have ever stayed anywhere so spotlessly clean. Before we arrived, there had been talk of packing wimples but actually, we didn’t knowingly see a single nun the whole time we were there!


My room in the convent. My photo.


But the weekend wasn’t about the convent it was about a group of friends meeting up and having fun. We all met on Twitter and have gone on to become good friends in real life too. Twitter has, for me, been a great source of friendship…and I’m talking real friendship, the kind that lasts. We don’t see each other very often, but when we do I love that it’s so comfortable. We gossip, we giggle, we talk, and we share. We tease and poke fun at each other and it’s good. It’s so good!


We wandered somewhat aimlessly around York, found somewhere for a lovely lunch, then mooched a bit more before settling into York’s most haunted pub, The Golden Fleece. We saw no ghosts but there was a skeleton sat at the bar! The pub was the place where we discovered and laughed ourselves silly over using personal hotspots. Who knew WiFi technology was so full of double entendres?


The most haunted pub in York. Source.


After plenty of drinks we made our way to the assembly point for the Ghost Hunt of York at the bottom of The Shambles. One or two of us might have been slightly tipsy but even so, I’ll never know how this happened: “Was that a ghost? Oh…no…it’s a limo!” Just one of those moments that you couldn’t make up. And no, it wasn’t me who said it!


The Ghost Hunt was very popular and we followed a gentleman dressed in Victorian garb around the streets of York with over a hundred other people while he stood on a very un-Victorian stepladder and told ghost stories. The general consensus was that the tour was a victim of its own success and suffered from having too many people on it. Considering the tour runs every night we are all now thinking about a change of career!


By the time the tour ended we were all rather cold and one of us was complaining that if they didn’t get some “Yummy Chicken” soon, they wouldn’t be responsible for their actions. Duly warned, we made our way to a popular chicken restaurant where between the five of us we demolished over two whole chickens, although some people’s eyes were much bigger than their stomachs!


Having eaten we made our way back to the convent, dodging York’s Saturday night crowd, many of whom seemed shockingly underdressed for a cold evening in February. Maybe I’m showing my age now but I don’t recall going out half-dressed and going home half-cut when I was that age.


Back at the convent we attempted to find the recreation room on the third floor which inexplicably appeared to have been relocated to the second while we were out (this was our conclusion…and no we weren’t that drunk). Having found it, we settled down for some red wine and champagne cocktails. There is something deliciously naughty about lounging around and getting tipsy in a convent.


The following day, after exchanging a few harsh words with the automated pay by phone system for the car park I was using (very expensive), I met the others for breakfast. There were no hangovers so after checking out and dumping our bags in the cars, we did some more wandering around York. Obviously a cooked breakfast wasn’t going to keep us going for long so we went to Betty’s Tea Rooms where I decided to ignore my wheat intolerance and ate the most delicious Yorkshire Curd Tart I’ve ever had. The others demolished some Fat Rascals. If you haven’t come across one before, a Fat Rascal is a Yorkshire speciality and is similar to a scone. Betty’s Tea Rooms are not exactly cheap but they are old fashioned and quintessentially English, with waitresses in buttoned up blouses and white aprons. The tea was particularly good with a huge pot containing proper loose tea not tea bags!


Fat Rascals. Source.


After satiating ourselves on rascals and tarts (sounds so wrong!), we went to York Minster. The others decided to be brave and climb the tower but I declined on the grounds of having dodgy knees and a longish drive home. You can call me a wimp if you like! While they climbed I wandered around the beautiful Minster taking photos. I have to admit that I wish I could have climbed up the tower because the views from the top are simply breathtaking. Although, having said that, it did mean that no-one could accuse me of being “taken up the Minster”. As you can see, our sense of humour is nothing if not predictable. We ended the day in another pub while the tower-climbers attempted to recover their breath and ease their aching legs.


We didn’t exactly caper around the convent but it makes a good blog title! And even without any capering I loved every minute of my weekend and was terribly sad to say goodbye to everyone. They say laughter is the best medicine so I’m unsure how I managed to come home with such a terrible cold but it was worth it. I consider myself extremely lucky to have met such lovely friends through Twitter and I look forward to seeing them again before too long.


(Photos taken in York have been posted on my Flickr account)


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Twelve months ago I was just one of a multitude of people sitting on the peripheries of Twitter, following a few celebrities and never really tweeting.  I had a small number of followers (less than 10) and we never really interacted.

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of the drama series [Spooks] and when series 9 ended with Lucas North a.k.a. John Bateman appearing to jump to his death, I searched Twitter to see what the rest of the country had to say about his fate. Was he really dead?  Had he taken up base jumping?  You know the kind of thing…

 

What I found was a whole community of people.  Well…more accurately…what I found was Lucas North cleaning his gun…but that’s another story!  Seriously though, I found a small group of people united in their love of a certain Mr Armitage.  So, I ventured a few tweets in their direction and found, to my surprise, that they tweeted back and before I knew it I was involved in conversations and role plays, and was laughing until my sides hurt.  Of course I found that we had far more in common than an obsession with an actor and it was so refreshing to find people that didn’t think I was weird for loving history and genealogy.

 

To say Twitter changed my life might seem like an exaggeration or make me sound like someone with no social skills spending her life glued to a computer…but I’m serious.  A few years ago I went through a traumatic break up and it’s fair to say that since then I have struggled making friends outside of work and just generally moving on.  On New Year’s Eve last year I had to work…I never find that time of year especially easy and I was feeling particularly low.  A friend at work was very kind to me and although that helped, I was teary when I left, depressed at the thought of an evening alone when everyone else was having fun.  I posted something to that effect on Twitter and was rather surprised at the reaction.  “Let’s have a Twitter party!” was the suggestion.

 

Well…I had the best New Year’s Eve I’d had for many many years.  I spent it sat at my computer, drinking rum and coke, and chatting to lots of other people on Twitter who were in similar situations.  We shared music and laughs and although I was physically alone, I have never felt less so.  I vowed to spend less time wallowing in self-pity and more time living…call it my New Year’s resolution.

 

And live I certainly have…

 

Apart from making a concerted effort to go to the theatre and concerts, the highlight of the last 12 months has been me being brave enough to meet in person nine of the lovely people I’ve been chatting to on Twitter.

 

I’ve been to pub gigs, had a day out in York, had a picnic in Regent’s Park followed by a trip to London Zoo, spent a very wet day wandering round London trying not to get lost and, I was even brave enough to go and stay in a hotel managed by one of my new friends and spent 2 lovely days enjoying Devon with her.  Most importantly I’ve made friendships that I hope will last a lifetime and met people I really care about.

 

I’ve done more this year than I’ve done in the whole of the last 10 years and I’m not sure I would ever have done so much if it wasn’t for the unstinting and unconditional friendship I found online.  I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to me and how much it really and truly has changed my life.  I’ve found inspiration where I thought there was none, and no longer feel alone in life.

 

So to all of you…and you know who you are…thank you…from the very bottom of my heart.

 

I love you  xxxxxxxxx

 

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