There are so many interesting people on Twitter, and once you have your own network up and growing usually people will let you know if there is anything or anyone around that you might be interested in. For example one evening in January 2010 I was looking through tweets and chatting to friends on Twitter when a Twitter friend @HD41117 put me in touch with @beckie_williams. It turned out that Beckie’s great-grandfather recruited Kim Philby. How amazing is that?
It is also a great place for things like book recommendations
@SteveHills who I didn’t really know at the time of tweeting, but is now a great friend, recommended Agent Zigzag by Ben McIntyre to me. I ready it when I was away on holiday and it became my favourite book ever. It is the amazing story of Eddie Chapman, an English double agent who is an absolute character. Another great connection on Twitter was connecting to @herokate a year or so later. Kate’s boyfriend is a great guy called Michael who runs a famous Soho bar, a bar that Eddie Chapman use to frequent. I had a great chat with Michael one evening at my friend @Daren140’s birthday drinks. Daren introduced me to Kate who introduced me to Michael, and Michael told me stories from when he sued to hang out with Eddie Chapman. I love my Twitter friends 🙂
Something else very cool that happened because of Twitter at around the same time was that I got to achieve an ambition that I had had since I was five years old. I had really wanted to drive a big red London bus. I had tweeted this in to @davegorman in response to a request from him to everyone listening to his Absolute Radio show on a Saturday in January 2010. Dave had asked everyone to tweet in their childhood ambitions, so I duly tweeted saying that when I was five I wanted to drive a London bus. Dave was choosing some of the ambitions and trying to connect people up to help make them happen. Luckily for me I didn’t need Dave to help my ambition come true as Kelsey at Bletchley Park had seen my tweet, contacted the local gay nightclub Pink Punters in Fenny Stratford and asked them if I could drive their bus around Bletchley Park. How exciting 🙂
Kelsey arranged for the bus driving to coincide with the next Station X social media cafe.
To make sure that I was a fit driver we needed to have a practice, so we all turned up for Station X and then got on the bus together to be driven to the Milton Keynes stadium car park. It reminded me a bit of the film “Summer Holiday” with Cliff Richard. I was really excited and the bus was buzzing with everyone chatting about what they had been up to since the last Station X and whatever the latest was in our Twittersphere. It didn’t take long to drive to the stadium. Once there I was given a quick overview of what I needed to do, and then we were away. It wasn’t actually as different to driving a car as I had expected. The steering wheel on the bus was massive though and that took a bit of getting used to. I drove around the car park a few times, then had a go at a few different manoeuvres like driving backwards between two traffic cones. After 20 minutes or so the lovely guys from Pink Punters were satisfied that I was able to drive. I got back into the back of the bus and they drove us all back to Bletchley Park.
Once back, the driver parked the bus in front of the mansion house and got out of the driver’s cab. I went around the front and got in to drive. I was slightly nervous. What if I crashed into one of the huts? Just imagine how dreadful that would be.
Photos by @9600 Andrew Back
I got in the cab, started the engine and off we went to cheers from the Station X crew on the bus. The roads at Bletchley Park are pretty narrow so it wasn’t as easy as driving around a massive car park. I did a couple of circuits around without any major problems, and then started around for the third time. I was getting a bit cocky, so I drove a bit faster the third time. Half way around I managed to hit a traffic cone when taking a corner, but that was fine, what’s a traffic cone between friends? We were almost around and it was all going well, I slowed down gradually to park in front of the mansion, and as we slowed pulled over to the kerb slightly so that the bus wouldn’t block any other vehicles that wanted to go past. I slowed right down almost to a stop, and then managed somehow to take the bus up the kerb and stop on the kerb. Awww. I had driven really well until the very last few seconds and then mucked it up. Ah well. I’d not injured anyone or anything, I’d managed not to crash into a hut, we had all had a bit of a laugh and I had achieved an ambition I’d had since I was five years old.
Here’s a video of my efforts shot by @mikistrange on the day.
I got in touch with @davegorman afterwards to let him know that because of him I had remembered and now succeeded in fulfilling a childhood ambition. I got to meet Dave in person some time after that when he did his “Powerpoint Presentation” gig at the Royal Festival Hall, and then again when we both appeared on the Infinite Monkey Cage with Robin Ince, Brian Cox and Simon Singh in 2012. He’s a lovely guy. He helped calm me down just before we were about to go on stage when Brian Cox had jokingly said something like
“Is it alright if I ask you complicated technical questions during the show?” to me.
I almost had heart failure, though of course I tried not to show it. Dave did a great job after that backstage of making me laugh and keeping me calm. What a great guy 🙂
This is an excerpt from the pre edit version of Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black which is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US