It's all become a bit of a strain lately, though. Some of the fun's gone out of it. Between rape threats, calls for moderation, Russian boycotts, racist vans, Sun front pages and the continuing presence of One Direction in the Trending Topics, it's all got a bit stressful. My timeline used to just be people tweeting their dinners and sarcastic comments about Gail Platt's hair; now the vortex of hysteria which sometimes engulfs Twitter is demanding I sign petitions or boycott the platform for a day. Plus I follow Mia Farrow, and though she tweets a lot of great fun stuff (including the revelation that she was watching Sharknado with Philip Roth, which may be my favourite thing ever) she also regularly tells you about the latest Third World atrocity. Bit of a bummer.
Thank goodness then, for the odd little ray of sunshine, like Tim and Andy at Northern Rail. There's a bunch of tweeters employed by the rail company to keep passengers informed about delays and cancellations, and frankly I'd rather be minesweeping in the Afghan foothills than do that job. Every day you have to put up with this kind of shit:
That was following a theft of overhead lines in Stockport. I'm afraid I might have responded with something a little more direct, like "What do you want me to do? Come down there and strap you to my back and run you to work?"
In the old days, of course, people would have just tutted and rolled their eyes and gone back to reading the Metro. Twitter has enabled direct, one to one conversations with the rail companies in real time, and so frustrated people on the platform just start venting wildly:
I wouldn't put up with that kind of crap. I am a real loss to the customer service industry.
There are a whole bunch of people who do the tweeting on behalf of Northern Rail, but Tim and Andy are my favourites. They're relentlessly upbeat, unfailingly polite, and sometimes wilfully surreal:
Now that's good social networking. Engaging, pleasant and fun. Or this one:
which is just plain camp.
I might feel different if I had to put up with cheery little gags when I'm getting drenched on a platform in Arnside because the promised train hasn't turned up, but sitting at home with a cup of tea I appreciate the moments of levity. I can't decide who my favourite is though. On the one hand, Andy often begins his weekend shifts with "Sunday Sunday, here again in tidy attire" so we clearly share a spirit animal. I couldn't find an example of him actually saying it, sadly, because I went back through Northern Rail's timeline and I hit all their apologies to people incensed that they were refusing to run trains following flash flooding at Walsden and I had to go and have a lie down because RAGE.
On the other hand, I got this response from Tim:
so you know: there's that. Tim is also the one running the current #NorthernView contest:
It's a nice little competition, and he retweets the best shots, so you get a little moment of pride. I haven't entered because I rarely take photos out the window of trains - I'm so boring that England's magnificent scenery is so much blah to me; I'm just waiting for the next station to turn up. It seems to be something Tim's done off his own back, even though he's doomed to be unappreciated:
Yesterday, they did tweet something fun and interesting though:
It seems that the poster dates from 1962, when the Beatles were regulars at New Brighton's Tower Ballroom. It ended up being the tweet that was heard round the world, thanks to Scouse actor David Morrissey. He retweeted Merseyrail's picture, and then followed it up with this:
Good on you Dave; this more than makes up for Basic Instinct 2. (And thanks to @sebpatrick for the heads up).
I love that it's been uncovered completely accidentally, and I really hope it's not going to be disposed of too quickly. Maaaaaaaaarten Spaaaaaaaaaargaren, Merseyrail's Grand Chief Poobah, tweeted:
My suggestion is that they frame it and put it up in a station, either Bidston or New Brighton. I wouldn't want it to just be handed over to the Beatles Story (who've probably got hundreds of these things) or auctioned off to some American who'll stick it in a glass case in his mansion. Frame it and put it up on Merseyrail: make it a treat for passengers and tourists. I'm sure it'd be an attraction in its own right; all those slightly scary Japanese tourists you see doing V-signs outside the Cavern would love it.
Of course, some people had alternative suggestions: