A little bird told me …



Twitter? It’s a bit like Marmite. People love it or hate it. Though often those that ‘hate’ it know now’t all about it. “I can’t be bothered with all that nonsense”, implying that you are somewhat of a shallow fool. Or “ I don’t know where people find the time”, whereas you of course have absolutely nothing else to do but indulge in such fripperies.

Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it

I don’t try to stop people pursuing their interests. So obviously I take issue with those who feel free to criticise me, albeit indirectly, for ‘wasting’ my time. Especially if they are talking out of their bottoms. I’ve had a Twitter account for ages, but only started using it actively a few years ago to support James Bowen and Bob – now famous through Street Cat Bob, but at the time virtually unknown. Through those first tweets I made contact with a whole load of delightful people, some of whom I have actually met and whom I’m very happy to count as friends.

A delightful community of interesting, caring people

Now that I’ve published the first of my books, I use Twitter to help promote it. I’m under no illusions. I know that this alone will not make me a best selling author. There is, however, so much more to Twitter than self-promotion. In my experience it’s a delightful community of interesting, good-hearted people who share their knowledge, their ideas, articles they have found, funny pictures, stories, book reviews, art – just about anything and everything you could think of. A rich seam of education and entertainment.

Everything has an ‘off’ button, including Twitter

Of course there are the people who only self promote. And those who tweet drivel. Who witter on about what they had for lunch and suchlike. But with Twitter as with most things, there’s an ‘off’’ button, or its equivalent. Even if someone follows you, it doesn’t mean you have to follow them. That way, you keep out of each other’s hair. As to the trolls. Clearly they exist and clearly they are nasty. I’ve been fortunate I guess in not being famous or doing anything that attracts the jealous attention of such people.

More dog charities than you could throw a stick for

Among my followers I count loads of writers, a smattering of lawyers and barristers, including a QC and two criminologists. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn that I follow and am followed by more dog charities than you could throw a stick for including my beloved A.C.E., Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, Dogs Trust– just a few among many. Plus other tireless animal charities and individuals who campaign to end cruelty – Peter Egan, Animals Asia, SAMPA and C.A.R.I.A.D. and their supporters. And far too many others to mention here.

All human life is here

So dogs and cats in all shapes and sizes, tigers, monkeys, bears and other four-leggeds all feature on my Twitter account. Some of the cats and dogs even follow me! As to the humans – they come in all flavours. Serious, funny, interesting, erudite, kind, resourceful, helpful, engaged, creative and more. They come from every corner of the globe – or would do if the globe had corners. I’ve swapped rants about public transport with a writer in New York, exchanged views with a jazz trombonist who is into neuropathology, followed the tweets of a Canadian involved in fishing rights and the law. Truly, as they say, all human life is here. And long may it continue.


Tea and technology


Writing is mostly a solitary occupation. Even if you are writing with a cat on your lap, it’s still down to you to get the words onto the paper or the screen. The cat’s not going to do it. But it sure as hell will provide a distraction, whether it’s actually sitting on the keyboard or not. There are plenty of ways you can happily waste time with a cat – whether it’s a real cat or a virtual cat. And it’s not just cats …

Who’s boss?

Before you even start, tackle the technology. While we curse it and say how much time it wastes, it’s not it. It’s us. Your computer hasn’t got teeth. It’s not going to bite if you don’t look at your emails (though of course it can get back to you in other sneaky ways). So first, turn of the bling or ping or whatever noise your computer makes when an email comes in. If, like me, you also have a distracting little box that appears top right, see if you can kill it. You may not be able to do so, but you can try.

Step away from the phone

And then there’s the phone. Once you’ve set a writing time – I write best in the mornings – don’t answer the phone. There are such things as answering machines. And don’t fret; if it’s urgent they’ll ring back. Even better, tell all your friends, your mother, the cat, the dog, your neighbour that you never answer the phone between, for instance, eight and twelve a.m. Be specific. If you are someone who just has to answer, then unplug the wretched thing, if it’s a landline. With mobiles, turn off the sound but shove it away somewhere. Like in a drawer, on top of the fridge. Anywhere where you can’t see it. (Only don’t forget where you put it!)

The devil incarnate – a.k.a. the Internet

Looking for inspiration – always a good excuse – I decided to do some ‘research’ for this post. So I Googled and found much more than even I had bargained for. Just one of the suggestions offered had no less than thirty five new ways to waste time or to find inspiration, if you prefer to think of it that way. That’s the delight and the curse of the web. A true double-edged sword. But I wouldn’t be without it. Nevertheless, it is madly distracting so, if possible, restrict your ‘research’ to evenings.

How many cups of tea does it take to write a novel?

We’ve all been there. You’re a bit stuck. A bit bored maybe. “I’ll just go and make a cup of tea.” Or maybe it’s coffee. Whatever. It’s still a distraction. It can bugger up your chain of thought, even if you weren’t aware of having a train of thought at that particular moment. When you are writing it’s essential that you keep your bum on the seat. Even if that means spending hours staring at the screen. It sounds weird, but by some sort of strange alchemy if you just stay there, something happens. Eventually. (You don’t have to remain immobile all the time, some pacing and stretching is allowed. And the occasional cup of tea.)

Rules are meant to be broken

The thing people often forget to say is that you need to know the rules before you can break them. There’s not a lot of fun in breaking a rule if you don’t know you are breaking it. And there are of course exceptions to any rule, provided you know it in the first place. And as I’ve said before, it’s probably better to make a cup tea or get a coffee than put something in the Google search bar. A cup of tea might take ten minutes. Make that fatal click and you’ll be there for hours. Trust me. I’m a writer.


SrslyThe Oxford English Dictionary has been an invaluable source of pleasure and learning since it was first published in 1884. Now that it’s on the web it’s there, whenever you want it. You can of course subscribe but much of it is free. Constantly revised and researched by an army of editors and experts in England and the USA, the online version is updated no less than four times a year.

It’s fascinating how a new or updated word will have one person smiling and another snarling. Why, for instance does the new addition srsly make me grin, whereas merch for merchandise has me reaching for a gun to shoot someone? Or myself. I mean OMG, do we have to reduce everything to text speak? Dear OED what were you thinking of! My loathing of such monstrous non-words is only partially offset by my joy in discovering that OMG, far from being an invention of today’s youf, has its origins in the early nineteen hundreds. OMG indeed.

It came as a surprise to discover that fewer than 100 new entries date from 2000. The youngest word in the OED was crowdsourcing until it was supplanted by copernicium, an artificially produced radioactive element. Hashtag is pretty new; it’s only been in since 2007. On the other hand bezzie – best, favourite and now a short form of best mate or best friend – goes back to the mid nineteenth century.

So here, with no apology whatsoever, are some I love and some I hate and some that are just a little weird. The interpretations below are entirely mine, not those of the OED. Oh and BTW I never claimed I would be consistent.

I love

  • Flexitarian – I didn’t know I was a flexitarian although I have a varied diet.
  • Snacky – feeling snacky? Go and eat something snacky. Or just some nuts!
  • Time Suck – cats on the Internet.
  • Srsly – I just like this one. I think we’re back to cats on the Internet again.
  • Blondies – white chocolate brownies.
  • Death stare – We’re good at this in my family.
  • Fabrosaur – A type of dinosaur. Made of fabric?

I hate

  • Bikeable – an environment suitable for cyclists. Why not say suitable for riding bikes?
  • Guac – would saying guacamole strain your brain too much?
  • Boyf – OMG OED!!!
  • Deets – Ditto
  • Citational – I hate it when nouns are turned into adjectives.
  • Babymoon – probably used by people who have ‘baby on board’ in their cars.
  • Apols – Good God, nooooo. See OMG above.
  • Bouncebackability – what the @%$&£ is wrong with resilience?
  • Blamestorming – there’s original. And there’s silly.

And then there’s just weird

  • Food baby – fat tummy, as in looking pregnant but really just being fat.
  • Ship – relationship in fan fiction. Really, really strange.
  • Slash – as in actor/dancer. So not taking the piss then.
  • Jorts – short jeans or jean shorts. Yuck.
  • Fauxhawk – not a bird of prey. They’d have more sense.
  • Meatspace – reality check! What planet are you on?
  • Derp – The new ‘Duh!?
  • Screenager – too clever by half.

 What have you found that has you smiling or that sets your teeth on edge? Put your comments below – I’d love to hear what you think.