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No hiding place from Twitter, me on the bike, JP in DC

Posted on 17 July 2009 | 6:07pm

I always, always, always wear a helmet when cycling. Always. Except yesterday.

And guess which day it was that someone tweeted that they’d seen me out on the bike. Yesterday. Followed by someone who said they once saw me and Boris Johnson out cycling on the same day, though not together. Boris never wears a helmet so far as I can tell. Idiot.

As to why I didn’t yesterday, just one of those moments. I forgot to put it on. Must have been distracted. Once I realised, well into the ride, that it was missing, I was desperate to get home. Non-helmet wearers may find that odd, but I keep as a reminder of the need to wear a helmet an old one with a horrible dent where otherwise my temple would have hit the pavement that delivered the dent.

The point though, as well as the obvious safety one, is that twitterers can see you here, there and everywhere. There is no escape. Ask John Prescott. Steps off a plane in Washington DC, heads to his hotel, and is raving about the film he watched on the way over from London, namely In The Loop.

‘That was Alastair, that was. That was Alastair,’ he apparently said of the foul-mouthed spin doctor main character. And how do we know he said this? Because it was immediately tweeted by one Armando Ianucci, creator of said foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker. And how did he know? Because he was the person JP was raving to … of all the people, in all the places, blahdiblahdiblah.

JP is in DC trying to set up a Council of Europe conference in advance of the Copenhagen climate change summit in December. He has been seeing experts from both Al Gore’s team, and President Obama’s. And the story of ‘In The Loop’? A British politician going to Washington for important meetings with the Administration. Who’d have thought it … JP as life imitating art.

No wonder he is going all luvvy on me. First liking a film which I had pronounced as not as good as it was cracked up to be by the critics. Then telling Ianucci he liked it. And then, once Ianucci had tweeted, tweeting back to tell him how much he had enjoyed meeting him, and adding ‘Tucker IS Alastair, but with less swearing.’

After all I’ve done for him down the years. Bastard. Only joking. Bastard.

I suspect he and Armando are off to the ballet tonight.

  • RGA

    Perhaps JP is in the ballet …. now that would be a sight worth seeing!

  • Em

    This won’t make you feel better but it needs to be said: Alastair, this is why they pay you the big bucks. You are a “name” and thus under greater scrutiny. I never wear my helmet and, as far as I know, it has not been mentioned on Twitter. Then again, I’m not a member of the Twitterati.

    It’s difficult to feel sorry for you in this instance since this episode will only reinforce your memory and you are unlikely to forget your helmet ever again.

    I’m sure BoJo doesn’t need to wear one. I read somewhere that the upper classes have thicker skulls (especially in the frontal area, especially if they are right-wing) and he’s got a lot of hair to cushion the blow.

    As far as “In the Loop” goes, the movie is about to open in Canada and I plan on disregarding your review. Seems you are the only one who disliked it. I wonder why.

  • Cllr Mark Bennett

    I am often ticked off for not wearing a cycle helmet. If people want to wear them, fine by me, but I choose not to. Opinion is divided over how protected you are – some research says you are less cautious if you are wearing a helmet, because you assume you are safer.

    Incidentally, when Boris came to Lambeth for a policing event, he cycled here and wore a helmet. I cycled to the event without a helmet.

    I have to agree with something he said in his Telegraph column (the one he gets paid chicken feed for): “As for cycle helmets, we should be allowed, in our muddled way, to make up our own minds. Sometimes we will go for hatless, sun-blessed, windswept liberty; sometimes for helmeted security.”

  • Katharine T.

    Personally I avoid bicycles like the plague; seems I am very uncoordinated and every time I get on one I fall off and seriously injure myself. Fortunately, dentistry in Canada is quite good to compensate for the teeth that get knocked out.

    So, on that note, I think full padded armour, complete with full faced helmet is in order for me to ever ride one of those blasted things ever again.

    Also, just think sir; if you weren’t famous enough to bother tweeting or twittering or fluttering or whatever it is about, then you would have never sold a single book and probably no one would care about what you have to say….sort of how you probably feel about our comments. 🙂

  • jane A

    @Mark – “windswept liberty”?

    Bet you would rather he was busy being a Mayor than sitting around composing Fifth Form poetry. Still, I guess it keeps him out of trouble.

  • Thomas Rossetti

    You do indeed seem to be the only person who doesn’t like “In The Loop”. I also wonder why.

    I have just finished reading Michael Ashcroft’s very interesting book “Dirty Politics, Dirty Times” in which he details the way the establishment have tried to smear him over the years. In the book he comes very close to suggesting that you and a Times journalist lied in the Hutton Inquiry about leaking David Kelly’s name to the press. How do you respond to this?

  • Nicola Clubb

    I do not wear one either and I know the accidents that are possible. But i think you will find more often than not it is the cars and other vehicles that cause most accidents and they should be forced to ride a push bike for a few years before getting behind a wheel of a car. They might then understand that they are not the only road users.

  • Nicola Clubb

    Mind you to add to my last posting I think quite a few cyclists need a dose of reality as well, especially the ones who jump lights at red or break the rules of the road.

  • Harry Miller

    The first half of In The Loop was very funny and witty, like most of the TV series. It did, however, start to trail off, becoming muddled, bitter, less funny and interesting as the movie went on (with the exception of the marvellous Jamie and the fax machine scene). The mocking of petty bureaucracy and petty people was what made The Thick of It glorious; Ianucci’s cloudy and ineffectual tackling of ‘Important Stuff’ sadly sacrificed humour and style. In The Loop ended up far too lighthearted to be a serious political film and too morally overbearing to be a really good comedy, just scraping above the sort of dreadful ‘satire’ ruled over by Rory Bremner.

    So there’s a decent argument for not being Alastair Campbell and not liking the film as well. Just saying, so as to dispell the opinion that everyone unanimously enjoyed that film!

  • Louis Eustace

    Great last line!

  • Trevor Malcolm, Portsmouth Hampshire


    SLEEPLESS IN PORTSMOUTH, WRITES: Throughout Sunday, 19 July 2009, now past midnight and into the early Monday morning hours of 20 July

    Still sleepless and concerned here, because since you first launched your website on 2 February, earlier this year, you’ve conscientiously blogged us at least once daily

    Every day, it seems, including Sundays. No Sabbath “Day of Rest” for atheists

    And if 18-19 July seem the first exception, say, because like the news reports on TB’s wife, Cherie Booth, you’ve succumbed to the debilitating symptoms of swine flu and need to convalesce, then you’ll be “better than well” again soon

    Optimistic, I’ll remain. No blog, but an easy, obvious explanation, eg a technical glitch, would reassure frayed nerves. What’s worrying me is the prospect of your dark clouds of depression – “The Darkness Visible” – descending and engulfing you temporarily

    Or the “Noonday Demons” of the Old Testament, claiming you as their temporary victim of endogenous depression

    The above, all mere surmise and speculation, “feminine intuition” because those of us who don’t follow tweets, know nothing of your weekend whereabouts or activities

    Swine flu? Or worse, episodic depression, (which, I think, last engulfed you mere days before Easter in mid-April), either way, you’re best with your head “under the duvet” until recovery, health restored. No twitterers will espy you under there

    Any of the above hunches, if true, thoughts of your well-wishers all focus on you swiftly restored to your inimitable best form

    Trevor Malcolm