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How I travelled by Tardis from 1678 to 1940s ...and then back to the future
10:14am Friday 25th May 2012 in Editor's Chair
I TIME-TRAVELLED across several centuries this weekend as I shocked myself by breaking two very different personal taboos.
First, I succumbed to temptation and entered the modern world by joining Twitter.
I never ever thought I’d do it because I don’t like the principle of baring one’s soul every minute on the internet.
But a colleague, Simon Farr, persuaded me that editors have to tweet or die, so I took the plunge and opened an account.
For those not familiar with Twitter, it’s basically an online form of text messaging.
You have just 140 characters to say anything you like which you can send live from your computer or mobile phone whenever you like. These messages are called tweets and you can send as many as you want for free.
They will only be read by those who agree to follow you (again it’s all free) but it means you can talk publicly all day long to your heart’s content.
I thought it would be of no use to me but I was soon to learn better.
Simon set me up on Friday and I quickly tweeted several blithering pieces of inanity, mainly about Tottenham Hotspur.
Amazingly, several people immediately began following me, but still I saw no point to it... until reporter Lawrence Dunhill interrupted us by running into the room.
He announced that our campaign for 24/7 urgent care at Wycombe Hospital is on the verge of success after NHS bosses officially recommended our pleas are listened to.
I whooped, punched the air and then... tweeted news of the impending victory. A simple message flew out onto the worldwide web, and instantly my new followers picked it up and sent it on to their friends.
It was the fastest piece of news I’d ever conveyed, and I was then able to direct people to the story going live on our website in the next few minutes.
Buoyed by this success, I took my mobile phone along to High Wycombe’s mayoral weighing-in ceremony the next day and began mischievously tweeting from the scene. I delighted in telling my 39 followers that certain dignitaries had gained weight and were being jeered by the crowds.
But then to my horror, the town cryer spotted me and loudly declared that I should also be weighed.
I’m never one to shirk a challenge, so I lined up and took my place in the chair. It was the first time I had been publicly asked to take part in the ceremony, which dates back to 1678, and I could hardly refuse.
Happily, I was cheered when it was announced I had gained ‘no more’ weight.
What the crowd perhaps didn’t know was that I had effectively cheated. As it was my first weigh-in, it was impossible for me to have gained. Next year, it will of course be different.
I was still buzzing as I took my place in the ensuing town hall reception. But then reporter Rebecca Cain told me she had to rush off because a mortar shell had been found on The Rye and the bomb disposal squad was dealing with it.
Without another thought, I dictated a tweet to my ten-year-old son and he uploaded this breaking news from my phone straight on to Twitter.
The irony didn’t escape me. Here I was standing in the middle of one of the oldest, antiquated traditions in the UK – sending news via the most modern of 21st century mediums.
The mortar shell probably came from the Second World War, so in seconds, I had straddled three different eras of history.
I suppose the first moral is that while we should never forget our proud past, we must also embrace the present and the future. It’s easy to become irrelevant and useless by hiding behind our glorious yesterdays because we’re scared to deal with today. There is a place in our world for both the past and the present.
And the second moral is that I should cut down on the takeaways in advance of next year’s weighing in.