Happy Father’s Day – Euro 96

June 1996

It’s still mind-boggling how my dad ended up taking a few of the best players from The Netherlands out for a meal during the 1996 European Championships in England.

At a local petrol station, dad just happened to bump into Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit, with the conversation turning from football to Cypriot food. The ex-professionals were TV pundits during Euro 96 and happily exchanged mobile numbers with dad to arrange plans for dinner later that evening at a local Cypriot restaurant.

How the events unfolded were explained by dad on the phone. I was pretty much surprised, even confused, how a couple of exchanges in a petrol station could lead to dinner with the pros. Unfortunately, I was abroad and largely devastated that I couldn’t be there.

That evening Glenn Hoddle was a pundit on TV and therefore unable to make it. Nevertheless, arrangements were made with Ruud Gullit. Astonishingly, his last-minute replacements were superb with both Edgar Davids and Dennis Bergkamp tagging along. Having studied for a year in The Netherlands, I’ve always held an affinity for the country and would have loved to have joined them.

Edgar Davids didn’t have the best of tournaments. In fact, he was excluded from the Dutch squad at that time, so I suppose the evening was a timely relief from all the pressure surrounding his indicipline. Dad was extremely pleased by the extent the guys appreciated the meal throughout the evening, but with Meze, the quality food just kept on coming. He was also slightly surprised at how much Dennis Bergkamp enjoyed more than few beers, considering he was still playing in the tournament.

I can imagine that dad just accepted this as a normal night out, even though I was in awe just listening to it. Then again, dad had played football at a pretty good level himself. One of those highlights was being part of a 4 team tournament in Moscow, where he captained a London-based Cypriot XI against a quality Russian XI, scoring 2 goals against the great Lev Yashin in a 3-3 draw.

It’s over 2 years now since Andreas Spyrou passed away, but his memory truly lives on.

Dragon’s Dream is a Twitter Success

Friday 4th June 2010

One man’s idea, turned into a dream and almost hijacked by a rival. This is the story of #duncansdream and #peterspeople.

Fridays on Twitter are best known for #ff and #followfriday hashtags. However, Friday 4th June 2010 was a game changer. It all started just after 12pm when Duncan Bannatyne had a vision:

@DuncanBannatyne: I would like to #ff all of my followers – start following each other then we will all have 90,000 follwers. Simples

DJ Chris Evans retweeted the original idea giving it further credence.

At this point, I thought the idea seemed flawed. The primary concern was that if you had to follow 90,000 people in order to have 90,000 followers it would make your Twitter timeline virtually unreadable. Aside from that, adding so many people would probably take a long time, cleverly put by one of Duncan Bannatyne’s initial retweets:

RT @iancreek: @DuncanBannatyne What an excellent idea, I’ll start following your followers now. Should be all done by Christmas!

Just as I thought the idea was doomed to failure, a well crafted hashtag gave it super-twitter strength. All it took was a simple retweet by Duncan Bannatyne and the rest is history:

RT: @SteveRichardsUK Let’s get @DuncanBannatyne and the #duncansdream trending

The original idea and the person to thank for the duncansdream hashtag is @iancreek:

Time for someone to set-up a hash tag for this @DuncanBannatyne experiment :- ) any thoughts? #duncansdream maybe

So #duncansdream was about to come to life. By around 4pm it had superceded all expectations and in no time at all it was the No.1 trending topic in London and the UK. Eventually it was to overtake #oilspill as the No.2 trending topic Worldwide. Of course, it confused so many people across the world as Twitter was full of tweets like “I don’t get #duncansdream”.

The increase in followers far outweighed anything #ff would ever deliver. It seemed that there were a couple of strategies at play. Tweeters either followed as many people as possible, hoping that a large number would follow them back or simply wrote numerous tweets hoping that they would deliver followers or maybe even a combination of both.

As I didn’t want an unreadable timeline, I didn’t go all out adding people for the sake of it. Luckily, with some help from Duncan Bannatyne, more followers started coming in:

At around 8:30pm, with #duncansdream in full flow, Duncan Bannatyne was either kidnapped, went out for a meal or had an early night. It was left to another Dragon to seize the initiative. Peter Jones, at first slightly bewildered by it all, then retweeted this:

RT @androidfearn: @dragonjones please RT come on people let’s get #peterspeople trending above #duncansdream

The War of the Dragon Hashtags was now on. Basically, #peterspeople was light-heartedly trying to muscle in on the success of #duncansdream. Shortly after, I was lucky enough to have the following retweeted, which helped gain more followers:

From around 10pm until 1am #duncansdream and #peterspeople were fighting it out and to be fair it was a pretty even race. But there is no doubt #peterspeople was never going to be able to amass the enormous number of tweets sent using #duncansdream. According to What’s the Hashtag? there were 13,165 mentions of #duncansdream on June 4th and another 1,115 up until 4:30am GMT on June 5th. Sadly, there is no data for #peterspeople.

In the end, it seems I had a net gain, adding 10 people and gaining 90 additional followers. There maybe people who had a net loss, but that wasn’t the point of the original idea. Duncan Bannatyne wanted people to gain additional followers and on that note it was a major success, with probably everyone benefiting from the exercise.

So that’s it. A joyful day to be had by thousands of people across the globe. New followers and interesting conversations. Above all, a fresh Twitter experience. To be honest, I am just as excited to see the aftermath of it all, especially if #peterspeople will be revived for a final push against #duncansdream. I haven’t had this much fun since the general election when #nickcleggsfault, possibly the funniest hashtag ever, did Twitter proud.

UPDATE: At approx 2:45pm GMT on June 5th, the duncansdream hashtag hit 20,000 tweets and #duncansdream and #peterspeople were the UK’s No.1 and No.2 Trending Topics.

Over the weekend, there were 13,000 tweets on Friday (in 12 hours), 15,000 tweets on Saturday (in 24 hours) and 18,000 tweets on Sunday (in 24 hours) mentioning #duncansdream.

Finally, a big thank you again to Duncan Bannatyne for adding one of my tweets detailing this post to his Twitter favourites list.

Comedy Nights – Lyric Theatre

Sunday 25th April 2010

Back at Hammersmith for another event, but this time it’s at the Lyric Theatre with Richard Herring hosting the comedy night.

A quick bite to eat at the Lyric Theatre, before taking our seats. Wearing a Mr Perfect t-shirt, Richard Herring entered the stage. Another indication at his refusal to grow old, simply because age suggests so. There is no doubt he won outright ‘as the person who had eaten the most amount of carrots in the day’, through a quick audience straw poll. A thoroughly entertaining set, including loads of periodic table Q&As, before introducing Dan Antopolski onto the stage.

Unfortunately for the comic, an audience member’s alcohol level had reached annoying heights, almost trying to take over the show. At one point, it was an almost a one-to-one therapy session. He tried being nice, nasty, funny and rude, but nothing was going to stop her telling everyone that her boyfriend had left her, culminating in Dan replying ‘I have no idea why he left you’. Finally, he was allowed to continue his routine, ending with an inspired 4 minute rap.

Up next was Andy Parsons, who immediately opened with the line “I dumped my girlfriend today”, which had the audience in hysterics, as the annoying heckler had been led away after Dan’s performance. Another quality performance, before a short interval. Richard Herring was back to introduce the final act, Ed Byrne, who was excellent on the night. Even so, his routine at The Big Libel Gig will always be tough to top.

Overall, quality performances all round, including Richard Herring’s great interactions with the audience, especially the Italian girl from Bergamo. Enquiring about anyone famous from there, she mentioned Donizetti. Even my Italian mate wasn’t too sure who he was. I had to google him when I got back and it turns out he’s a composer. In fact, he composed “Lucia di Lammermoor”, an opera I’d seen a couple of months earlier!