What’s in a name?

•June 20, 2010 • 2 Comments

So. Father’s day is here, and of course that makes me think of mothers day. Mothering Sunday. A day for mothers. And this, a day for fathers.

The link? Parenthood. Children.

Not, you will note, lead a single life again day.

I like these days purely because I’m a sentimental fool, and like having a card written by my husband from my son; I like having an excuse to watch a film when J goes to sleep rather than doing the ironing. I like giving my husband Lego as a father’s day present, and watching him wear a badge that says “Best Daddy Ever” on it. I like spending time with my son. Because he is what makes it a parent’s day. Not me, going off and pampering myself and forgetting about my family – it’s ABOUT my family.

Just a short post, this one, but it’s a thought that keeps recurring. I just never feel entirely comfortable with the idea that treating myself, pampering myself or in any other way having a “special day” means I have to ditch my son and go off on my own. He is my life these days, I miss him when I’m away from him, which really isn’t often. Perhaps these days to celebrate parenthood should, in the early years at least, be spent celebrating family, by spending time with family. Not by disappearing off to a spa somewhere.

Similarly, I can’t help but object to holidays and resorts who claim to offer “baby and toddler friendly holidays” offering tantalising glimpses of a pre-children life, stating “you can have that experience again, let us take care of the kids while you relax and remember your freedom.” Well perhaps I’m just a freak, but I don’t really want to go on holiday to desert my son in a creche while I mince about pretending I don’t have kids. I chose him, I chose this life, and I love it. I want a holiday to be toddler friendly because it comes equipped with ways to really let him participate, not just ways to sideline him while I enjoy myself. I want him to have experiences too. There’s just no getting away from it – it’s not just about me anymore. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and sure now and again I need some time to myself. But the times I’ve left him overnight and gone out, I have spent more time missing him than enjoying myself. Sad, maybe – or just accepting that my life has changed along with my priorities.

So come on holiday companies, experience day providers and gift generators. How about some ideas that include the kids, not just occupy them while I enjoy my day. I wouldn’t be a mother without him – so why not let him share the fun.

Reinventing the Written Word

•June 10, 2010 • 3 Comments

OK, that might be a slightly overblown opener, but something caught my attention so I thought I’d try to catch yours.

Just seen a link on Twitter to this article on self-publishing http://www.springwise.com/media_publishing/indiereader/

And it got me thinking. This is a brilliant piece of marketing. It totally repositions the usually criticised self-published author into an independent artist beyond moral reproach. It turns “vanity” publishing into a “we the people against the machine” type uprising that makes it sound like the revolution is starting. More, the parallels it draws with handicrafts and foodiness thinly veils an implication that authors who take the route of agent / publisher are actually the literary equivalents of manufactured pop – and that is exactly where my concern goes into overdrive.

You see, I write. Obviously I write, the world and his wife writes. It is rarer these days for me to meet someone who doesn’t have literary ambition. Everyone wants to be a writer, and a lot of them seem to be really bloody good (which doesn’t explain why so many books I see in print actually look a bit rubbish. Personal taste, that’s all it is, I’m sure). There was some bizarre statistic I read recently which said that there are more wannabe writers than there are book-buyers. (By whom I mean the book-devouring public, not buyers at retailers) Whilst I reserve unhealthy doses of salt-pinches for that particular figure, the point is, the number of people churning out novels is far, far in excess of the number published in the UK each year.

And this is a good thing.

I know, I’m a wannabe writer too, surely I should be shouting from the rooftops to see more and more novels published each year, thereby increasing my own unlikely chances of dream-fulfilment. But I’m not. I honestly believe that it should be difficult, that there should be an element of luck, that not everyone who writes a book should necessarily have the chance to share it with the world.

Already, there is overwhelming choice. It’s great to see in so many ways, new novelists coming to light despite recession and certain doom and gloom prophets insisting that the printed word has a limited shelf-life, that e-books, audiobooks and other technologies will all too soon relegate printed books into the dusty archives of history. I just don’t believe it. Those of us who love reading, love reading books. Not saying there is no place for the advances of technology (far from it, in fact) but I think books have got a lot of life in them yet. And yet, whilst I am definitely keen to see a buoyant book market continue, I’m not so keen for the market to suddenly be awash with self-published books which have no quality control whatsover.

You may be screaming at the screen at the moment, telling me that I don’t have to read it if I don’t choose to. And you’re right. It’s just going to get even harder to find the good stuff than it is already.

One of the main points of it being so damn hard to find an agent, to get a publishing deal, to be heard of in the literary world is that you have to be good (or lucky, or already famous, granted) to get them. Having a good agent, or a publishing deal from a reputable company, is that it is a mark of quality, an assurance for the reader that what they’re shelling out their hard-earned cash for, and spending their even more precious time consuming, is worth it.

In a couple of years time I may well end up turning to self-publishing. I’m not even saying that all self-published books are bad – far from it. I know there are thousands of writers out there who are really, really good, for whom it is grossly unfair that their talent has not yet been recognised. Agents, publishers – they’re not always right. I shan’t bore you with the overused examples of now-famous writers passed over time and again by various agents. Because those are exceptions. I hope against hope that my faith in agents and publishers is well-founded, that they have earned their God-like position of authority over our book-babies. With their say so do worlds become and are destroyed.

Perhaps there’s just not enough room for everyone to play God.

Teen Angst

•June 8, 2010 • 4 Comments

It must be a very different experience being a teenager than when I was one. And that wasn’t so many years ago (she says, unconvincingly). Time is accelerating, or so it seems  – the gap in experience between generations seems to be widening. My generation seems fond of the belittling tactic – how can anyone younger than us say they have it hard – and yet in many ways I am glad I grew up when I did. I’d hate to be a teenager in 2010.

There are many reasons why this is. Partly, I’d hate to be a teenager again, full stop. Perhaps if I could look back on long summers of romance and pastel-shaded evenings of awakenings, things might be different, but as it stands I feel I blundered my way through my teenage years with all the elegance and grace of a hippo with a thorn in its foot. Being horsey gave me sufficient excuse to believe that the reason I wasn’t constantly attending parties was simply that I had too many responsibilities at home. Ahem. And yes, of course I had my share (in spades) of teen angst. I wrote reams of bad poetry, diaries in which I professed infatuations (nearly always unrequited) that I thought to be love, believing my emotions far deeper than mere “fancying” – no, I wasn’t so shallow. Course not. But I didn’t have my every move broadcast on social networking sites. I didn’t have the same number of teen pop and movie idols pressuring me into wannabe stardom. Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana (and many more I won’t embarrass myself by admitting knowledge of) weren’t even born. And yes of course there were young stars, but, for the most part, they were a lot older than I was.

Teens today have things I didn’t have. They have hair straighteners. Frizz-ease. Fashion designed for them. Magazines telling them how to be mini-adults and how to snog properly (OK, we had those too, I was just more interested in Your Horse. Just like today I’m more interested in Empire and Total Film.) They have so many TV shows aimed at them, full of beautiful, tiny people who spout impossibly precocious dialogue and experience improbably serious relationships. They have a sophistication I have never had. They have prom.

And yet. With great availability comes great responsibility. Because they have this wealth of product at their fingertips, the pressure to use it all is immense. It seems there is pressure from all sides. In all honesty, the majority of teenagers I know (and there aren’t many) are actually very similar to the ones around when I was growing up. They’re pretty normal. But the media-driven, celebritised world in which they are evolving is a frightening place. I suppose the world is always a frightening place, and not just to teenagers – but I never carried the risk of my idiotic behaviour being splashed all over Facebook, my friendship make-ups and break-ups broadcast on Twitter – my infatuations admitted to in the most public of public forums. Awful photos were pretty limited. I didn’t feel I was on camera. Thank goodness.

In some ways, I wish I’d had a pushier mother, who knew more about fashion and encouraged me to be thinner – but not really. I don’t mind the fact that my summers were mostly spent on the back of a horse, slightly overweight and with no romance to speak of (and what there was, I won’t speak of…) I don’t really mind that hair products were woefully inadequate. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I’d been more aware of these things, if today’s glut of products were available. In all honesty, I suspect I’d have been pretty similar to how I am today – content with the basics, and clueless about anything more complex than a pencil eyeliner.

So whilst yes, I can’t help believing that exams have got easier, that some of the new subjects available in school aren’t quite so academically challenging, that being a WAG is not a worthy career aspiration, and that there is nothing wrong with believing that some universities are just better than others – I also have a certain sympathy for this generation-on-show, demonised by the same media that is creating their own dreams. It’s a strange, commercial, high-speed world – and I just hope I can get my son through it with some semblance of competence. I don’t envy him at all. But like all aspects of motherhood, I’ll do my best to muddle through somehow, getting more wrong than right. Hope he forgives me one day.

The Levellers

•May 26, 2010 • 6 Comments

Motherhood is a great leveller. Children can reduce the most hard-nosed businesswoman to tears in mere minutes, can render the most glamorous it-girl positively shabby in seconds, and can undermine the confidence of a rock star.

But why is it something we’re all so afraid of? So convinced we’re failing at?

Children can cross barriers no other subject can breach. Your average antenatal class might contain people from vastly different political, socio-economic  and cultural backgrounds. At the beginning there might be frosty silence, but by the end, MDs will be best friends with check-out girls and movie stars with cleaners (OK, I never met any movie stars at my antenatal classes, but allow the point to be stretched if you will) We all go through it in difference guises, with different amounts of help and guidance – but we all go through it. And that sense of camaraderie and shared experience can go a long way to breaking down social barriers. Because it’s one of the hardest things you can do.

Being a mother can feel like you’re sliding along a knife-edge. While the going is good, it’s all fine and dandy. Meals get eaten, sleep is achieved, and relatively clean clothes are donned (theirs, not yours. Let’s be realistic here.) You can have a good phase that lasts for days, weeks, or even months. Yet it takes surprisingly little to unravel all that good and reduce you to a snivelling wreck, crying down the phone to your best friend that you’re the worst mother in the world.

Our children are a part of us. When they’re born they’re so unbelievably dependent, and it feels amazing. At no other time and from no other person will you ever feel such unconditional need. And that need can be shocking, even overwhelming at times – but it’s there, nonetheless. And yet, in an unfeasibly short time, there they are, shaking away your guiding, protecting hand and demanding things you have no clue how they developed knowledge of, and arguing things you didn’t realise they had opinions about. In short, they are real, unique, individual people – and it can come as a bit of a shock.

How many times in your pre-motherhood days did you vow never to behave in a certain way if you ever had children? How you wouldn’t put up with that sort of behaviour, how your child would be polite, quiet, attentive and not remotely snotty. They wouldn’t dream of throwing a tantrum in the middle of Sainsburys. And of course they’ll eat nothing but organic fruit, vegetables and pulses. Never a crumb of chocolate shall pass their lips. And never, under any circumstances, will you use your own spit as a cleanser.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Children under a certain age simply cannot be reasoned with. Yes, they can occasionally be distracted, entertained or bribed – but if you’re doing something, or not doing something, and they don’t like it – then they don’t waste any time letting you know how you’ve let them down.

The public tantrums are one thing, and no-one enjoys them. But other, more fundamental behaviours can make us feel like we have truly failed.

Breastfeeding is one of the most common issues for a new mother. In this country we are brainwashed into believing that breastfeeding is the only possible option for your child – that anything else is a poor substitute, and resorting to it means you have Failed. It is backed so completely that supermarkets, usually a rule unto themselves, are not even allowed to price promote them. Ever. Advertising for formula has to state clearly that it is not as good as breastfeeding. And let’s be fair, the science is there to back it up, and I’m not arguing it. What I do argue is that implying that choosing formula rather than breastfeeding does not necessarily constitute failure, and it is often not the fault of the mother (or baby) involved, whatever the NCT may have to say. To them it’s so black and white (a breastfeeding counsellor actually used that expression to me during our class – if it hurts or isn’t working, you are doing it wrong. It’s that black and white. No quibbling. Now stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done.)

But breastfeeding is not always easy – in fact, it’s usually quite hard work. And yes, at first, it can hurt. It’s a learning process – but it is probably the most primal, natural thing we as women could ever do in our lives. Yet just being clever, or determined, or good at handling pain, will not necessarily help you. I’ve been reduced to tears myself by my son’s refusal to “latch on” properly, and I know very few mothers who haven’t been there too. The problem is – if it’s so damn natural, why’s it so damn hard?

Being a mother is, to many people, the purpose of existence. To replace ourselves, to continue the species, is the most commonly cited “meaning of life” (after the number 42, of course) It’s supposed to be natural, our bond with our infants supposedly unbreakable – and besides, all those glam celebs are doing it all the time and looking great – so why can’t I? Why am I still a stone overweight, sleep-deprived and convincing myself that Organix crisps are a perfectly healthy staple in my child’s diet?

Being a mother is not easy. It’s often not a lot of fun, it can be brutally demanding and, for many months, you don’t get a hell of a lot back. But for the majority of women who experience it, it’s the most worthwhile, unimaginably fulfilling thing you can do. Nothing compares.

And perhaps that is exactly why it’s such a slap in the face when things aren’t going well. The books, the websites, the midwives and health visitors and everyone else are driving home the message that if you do it right, things will be easy. Therefore, logically, when it feels hard – you have failed.

Being entirely responsible for the existence of another human being is a heavy burden to bear. It’s immensely fulfilling, sure – but the weight of responsibility can prove too much for some. Perhaps the resentment of a life being missed out on can become acute; for families who are struggling financially, the extra expense can lead to more debt and pressure; and even for those for whom money is no object, bearing the responsibility for how a person will turn out is huge. The focus these days on psychology in the media adds a further weight, as we are all made to feel that any tiny thing we get wrong could have enormous repercussions – if we leave our baby crying, will she end up feeling abandoned, have attachment issues and end up insecure and self-loathing? Will a failure to correctly discipline your son turn him into a serial killer because he doesn’t respect the law or despises women? Our imagination may be our own worst enemy – for the most part, we tend to muddle along just fine. But you can’t help but wonder.

The rise of social media is both a help and a hindrance. It allows us a virtually unlimited network of information and support, 24/7. But is too much of a good thing automatically a bad thing? Does it just encourage too much self-analysis, too much self-pity, and not enough stiff upper lip? Which is better? Who can say. But the very fact that there are so many mum sites out there – mumsnet, netmums, askamum, babyexpert, and so many more I’d exceed my word limit just going through them all – is an indicator of just how strong this unifying bond of motherhood can be.

So next time you feel you have failed your child, that you are a terribly mother because your son refused to eat for 3 days, because your daughter won’t sleep for more than an hour at a time or because you caught yourself feeling bored whilst playing for the 3rd hour straight on the baby-gym – cut yourself a little bit of slack. We’re not super-human – we’re just human, and so are our babies. However much it can feel like you’re on your own – we are all in it together.

A Shift in Perspective

•May 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sitting on the floor with my son yesterday I realised quite how different the world looks to him. Sandwiched neatly between cupboard and island unit wall, the only things he could see were walls, drawer handles and oven doors. Is it really any wonder that he therefore plays with so many things I don’t want him to touch, when so much of my world is invisible to him?

It made me wonder just how much of the anger we direct at our children for their natural curiosity is both our own fault, and a simple selfishness on our part. Are we really annoyed that they want to repeat the same book 12 times in a row, or is it that there are other things we’d rather be doing? Is it that opening a cupboard door is genuinely dangerous – or that we are bored of telling them no? Of course, discipline is important – I just hear a lot of parents shouting at their children, myself included on occasion, and I wonder what causes such frustration. Needless to say this is written at a point in time where my little angel is behaving beautifully and not constantly interrupting me or sticking his fingers in electrical sockets or the cat’s water bowl (often at the same time) The frustration is easy to understand – but so is theirs, and I for one am guilty of forgetting quite how limited his outlook, both figurative and literal, is at this stage.

People can be very blinkered. The social internet has allowed everyone with something (or nothing) to say to have a voice, a ready audience. The desire to gather friends and followers may be a catalyst in the expression of those opinions – with even quarter of a point to make, it’s easier to shout those half-formed ideas from the e-rooftops, rather than perhaps thinking things through a little more.

And so, rather predictably perhaps, I return to the government. The coalition government. People who spent months (well, days anyway) lauding the fresh-faced hope of new kid on the political block Nick Clegg, with affectionate trending topics like “Long Legged Cleggy Weggy” top of the UK trending list for days at a time. Between the rock and hard place of Cameron and Brown, Clegg emerged as a genuine and credible alternative. People forgot that Lib Dem politics do not actually sit between those of Labour and Conservative, more slightly to one side, and followed his progress like the underdog on the X Factor.

And then the general election happened and suddenly the story changed. Clegg had let us down. He personally was responsible for the fickle nature of the voter; in the moment that they dithered between tradition and new hope, the safety of tradition won out and Clegg’s earnest conviction was not quite enough to swing the votes. Of course, people ignored the fact that their share of votes, and actual numbers, were higher than ever before. They also seemed to forget though that it wasn’t actually Clegg himself who neglected to vote for himself in greater numbers. But god forbid we the people bear any responsibility for our own actions.

Clegg’s transformation from angel to demon gained speed when suddenly the public cottoned onto the fact that he held the future of the country in his unelected and well-manicured hands. (The last is guesswork, I have never taken notice of the man’s cuticles) Protests abounded on all sides. It was unfair that LDs had fewer seats, it was unfair that the unelected Brown was clinging to power, and it was unfair that Cameron was winning /losing (depending on your political bias) It was unfair for a man insisting on a fairer voting system to have the final say in what happened in a government, when he was not elected into such a position of power. But the thing everyone got most outraged by was that he wanted to speak to both parties before making a decision.

It is ridiculous that everyone was up in arms about the fact that Clegg wanted to know what was on the table from both parties before making a decision. The same country bewailing the lack of facts, the lack of information before the election as they tried to decide which way to vote actually criticised this man, their fallen hero, for wanting to understand the situation fully before making his decision.

Of course, I am naive. To believe in any way that Clegg’s intentions were honourable, that he genuinely wanted what was best for the country demonstrates a childlike optimism, apparently. I am a fool to believe the best of people.

But until I have been in his situation, looking at the world from between a rock and a hard place, a cupboard and an island unit, with only the limited facilities at my fingertips to choose from, I think I might withhold judgement. I don’t want to tell him off too badly, when all he’s done is explore the world around him.

The Agonising Luxury of Choice

•May 9, 2010 • 3 Comments

I’m torn. On the one hand, there’s the invite to the anniversary dinner, a rare opportunity for us to go out together, leave the baby at home, get glammed up and have fun. On the other, there’s the anniversary dinner. The one that’s 300 miles away, involves complicated arrangements, a late night and therefore painful next day, lots of expense, and let’s face it, we don’t really know them all that well anyway. We hardly see each other anymore – wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice quiet weekend at home?

I have agonised over this for weeks. We are now at the point where, in an effort to keep our options open, we’ve annoyed the couple whose celebration it is by not RSVPing on time, the people who’ve offered us a spare bedroom and even shared babysitting arrangements by not confirming, and each other by being useless and indecisive. And why? Because we are very bad at making decisions, and worry our choices will offend or inconvenience others.

The truth is, one’s actions rarely offend of inconvenience anyone as much as one’s lack of action will do. The couple will understand that it’s a long way, and complicated with babysitting, the friends who’ve offered us accommodation will understand that it’s a long way to come and we don’t want to put them out. If we’d just said up front what we were doing, everyone would be happy. Instead, with two weeks to go, everyone is annoyed and stressed about it. And that is, sadly, absolutely normal behaviour for me.

I’m one of those people who always wants to keep everyone else happy. I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like letting people down and don’t like to appear selfish. However, I have come to the realisation over the years that selfish people often end up causing less trouble than the wannabe peacemakers like me. They state their position, and generally stick to it. Everyone else either accommodates them, works around them, or leaves them alone. They, for their part, do not then agonise over said decision for weeks afterwards, working through every connotation of their chosen route and how it affects others, nor do they painfully dissect every ensuing conversation looking for hidden resentments in the e-mails and voices of our friends.

Choice is a powerful thing. In our relatively civilised society, we are often overwhelmed by choice – from 63 types of coffee in your average Starbucks to entertainment, career prospects, even sexuality and partners – the world is our oyster and it’s rare we genuinely have no choice open to us. We have so much choice in our lives in fact that we are often heard to bewail it, complaining that we have to make too many decisions in a day. So when was it we started taking this incredible freedom for granted?

Some years ago I took part in a work training course. You know the type, several people sitting around a large table strewn with motivational aids, expensive mineral water and hotel branded notebooks and pens. It was called the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If you haven’t done this course, round about now you’ll be sighing and rolling your eyes at the “management-ness” of it all, the American soul-searching corniness of it that sits ill at ease with our more cynical outlook. Those of you who have done it might be thinking slightly differently. Admittedly, much of the course passed me by, condemned to the purgatory of my highly selective memory. But a few things stuck with me, and the thing that has helped me the most in my life since was this: make choices. Realise that the situation you are in is usually of your own making, you have made the choices that have brought you here, and accept the repercussions of those choices. Don’t be a victim.

There really are very few things in our privileged Western lives that are truly outside our control. Things that we have absolutely no influence on. Even if that factor is simply our own attitude towards a situation, if you really think about whatever situation you are in, it’s rarely come about with absolutely no input from us. That doesn’t mean that life is fair – we all know it won’t always be, and that bad things happen. Redundancies, accidents, deaths, criminal acts – these things all happen, and are often outside our control. But how we respond to them is, for the most part, entirely within our control.

I began to test the theory in my every day life. I had been moaning about a weekly meeting that took up three hours every Thursday without apparent point, but had never done anything about it. I asked around, gathered other viewpoints, and sat down with the meeting organiser to discuss it and redefine the purpose of the meeting. He ended up changing the structure and agenda, made it bi-weekly, and half the length. A small victory, but it got me thinking.

In my job there were a lot of evening dos, often late running events that involved lots of alcohol and cabs back home in the wee hours, where I tried my best not to wake my husband on my return. I was often heard to moan about the frequency of these events, and regularly irritated my husband by saying things like “Sorry, I’ve got to go to another work do, I won’t be back late though, but can’t get out of it.” As though somehow I thought that acting unenthusiastically about my rather fun job would make him happier about me never being at home. He often got annoyed about this attitude, so I tried my new theory out on him. “There’s a work do I’ve chosen to go to,” I said. “It’ll probably be a late one, sound like fun though. I’ll try not to wake up when I get in.” I waited for the hostility to emerge. “Cool,” he replied, “Have a lovely time.”

OK, these are trivial examples. But taking responsibility for your own actions, your own situation, and accepting that the choice you make will have consequences is an important step in being happy in your own skin. If you are constantly blaming your situation on other people, or moaning that you never have a choice in what you are doing then stop, and think it through. Being a martyr and sacrificing your choices in life is a choice in itself – so don’t take it out on other people if that’s who you’ve decided to be. We have the considerable luxury of too much choice in this country – let’s not waste it.

Power: Thy Name is Twitter

•May 5, 2010 • 2 Comments

I almost feel sorry for Tom Etherington. In case you don’t know, he is the editor of Zoo magazine. The same editor who allowed a particularly unpleasant comment by Danny Dyer go unedited.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, not so many people read Zoo. OK, it has a strong following and good circulation. But compared with the number of people using Twitter, for example, we’re talking small fry. So why are these two statistics relevant?

Because Twitterites have got wind of Dyer’s article, have circulated it, and are now publishing Etherinton’s e-mail address encouraging the world and his wife to contact him directly to complain. Danny Dyer is currently a trending topic on Twitter – that means it’s getting around 50+ tweets about it a minute. A minute. Think about it. And that is a pretty small example of a trending topic.

I’m not saying I approve of Dyer’s comment – nor even that I disapprove of people being able to comment directly to the editor. But it is a sign of the power of Twitter – the power of enabling the ordinary man an outlet for reaction – instant, unconsidered reaction – to anything he is shown. And therein lies the danger.

An interesting piece in this month’s Psychologies magazine tells us that the technology age is the proponent of instant communication. Anyone who has worked in an office knows it – everything is immediate these days. Texts are received and sent in a matter of seconds, and e-mails no less fast. We rarely stop to think about what we are doing, and in the heat of the moment can lash out with violent enthusiasm and total disregard for consequence.

I said before that not that many people actually read Zoo. It is a magazine for men. A self-confessed “lad-mag”. I am not condoning it, but having this sudden media spotlight thrown on it will no doubt open the floodgates to people complaining about the general content of it, and before you know it they’ll be asking the government to start editing magazines for fear that controversial subjects might get covered. God forbid anyone is actually allowed to do their own jobs anymore without someill-informed cabinet jobsworth making it their business to set some new bureaucracy around it. OK, I digress, and rant. I shall desist.

But, on the original topic – Twitter is an instant source of news, a real-time debate forum and site wherein enormous influence is wielded. It is the ultimate arena for free speech (as long as you don’t mind every other word you type being targeted by marketing types whose companies instantly start following you in the hope you’ll start talking about how great they are too) And as soon as you find some like-minded people, it ignites. I now check Twitter before news sites to see what’s breaking, and generally trust that information from Twitter is more up to date and, bizarrely, more trustworthy than from virtually any other source. I go there for information about politics, for views on religion, to get guidance on my writing, to share my thoughts and to watch the newest form of entertainment, the live Twitter-offs about TV shows (like the leaders debate)

In the UK we are only just beginning to understand the incendiary nature of the beast. Only touching the very tip of the iceberg – so few people in this country use it to its full extent that most people here don’t get quite “get it” But if they full power of this communication monster is ever unleashed – the world is just never going to shut up.