Ode to GUT, or The Death of a Talkboard


On Friday 25 February 2011 at 17:30 the Guardian Unlimited switched off Guardian Unlimited Talk with no warning to its users. This was a talkboard which had been in existence for more than ten years. Real life friendships had formed on the board. Couples had met and married there – there are children who might not exist were it not for GUT so in its own way, it has changed the course of history. It certainly changed my life, as there are many people I would never have met elsewhere, who have become firm friends.

 GU ran the boards as a free service for all those years even though at times it must have felt as if they had created some sort of ungrateful monster child with a hyperactive but utterly misguided intelligence. Few are in any doubt about their right to switch it off and indeed rumours had been going around for about five years that the end was nigh. What is in question is their reason for giving no notice.

There is an email in circulation written on behalf of the Guardian’s editors that explains that they had to turn it off and, even worse, for mysterious reasons, they are not allowed to tell us why. Well golly gosh and crivens, call Enid Blighton, scratch my back and pour me a gin. This is a most excellent reason and one I shall use forthwith whenever I do anything thoughtless, bordering on spiteful, that really pisses people off. I shall call it the God excuse – I move in mysterious ways and cannot tell you why. I shall also, in future, be scheduling all upsetting and life-changing events to occur at 17:30 on the last Friday of the month, so I can ignore the problem and go to the pub. At the moment these things seem to happen at around 09:15 on  a Wednesday leaving me actually having to deal with the issue and pick up the pieces, which seems hopelessly unfair and pointless.

 This is my own personal take on the wonders of GUT. It is not meant to be comprehensive and I will inevitably miss much out, for which I can only apologise.

 So who were GUers? Well they were the only ones likely to understand why I get a Muppets’ earworm every time someone mentions the capital of Bahrain – Manama n man a mannana. They were perhaps more likely than most not to be appalled by this behaviour but there were no guarantees as to which way they might jump. They  could argue for days (or it may have been months, I gave up) about the relative merits of tinned vs dried chickpeas. They could give expert guidance on everything from the structure and formation of PCTs, to the best laptop to buy, via a debate about God and the true meaning of existence, interspersed with a spat about who would win in a fight, a caveman or an astronaut.

 There was nothing so petty or trivial that GUers couldn’t argue about it, often in unexpected ways. When one poster innocently remarked that a mars bar and a packet of crisps were not perhaps the best breakfast one could think of, an almighty battle ensued about the effects that particular breakfasts, and lifestyle choices, might have on the planet. I think, though my memory may be playing tricks on me, that throwing crisp packets away may have been deemed an environmental sin so appalling that it was at least as bad as raping the planet.

Signs that you might have spent a little too much time on GUT.

 You divided your life into ‘here’ and ‘irl’, where ‘irl’ meant ‘in real life’ and had become a place you didn’t frequent all that often. Or at all if you could avoid it by getting Sainsbury’s to deliver.

On the occasions when you did venture out you found yourself telling irl friends about something a ‘friend’ said when in fact you’d never met the person and hadn’t got a clue who they actually were or what their name was. Or whether they were male or female. And in fact since the case of Penny Lane you had ceased to care one way or the other since any character could be operated by anybody.

You found yourself swearing a lot, in very inventive ways, using nouns as verbs, and briefly wondered why real people didn’t seem to find this all that funny.

You had to stop yourself from writing ‘fewer ffs’ on signs at the checkouts.

Everything you ever wrote became a list of increasingly bizarre acronyms understood by only around 300 people but that didn’t matter.

Your still, inner voice referred to you by your GU user name not your real one.

Whatever they might disagree on, almost all GUers were united in their ability to work smarter rather than harder – it’s how they tended to be able to work and post on GUT. Experts in operations management, they knew there was no point in negotiating your way around half a dozen menus when all you actually had to do was right click once. The majority (probably, perhaps, maybe, please don’t shout at me) were never more irritated than when confronted by someone visibly wasting their time and everyone else’s by waiting until they were at the front of the queue for the cashpoint machine before fumbling around in their pockets for their wallet. Many of them were fundamentally bored and underused at work and probably should have been given more to do and a promotion to keep them off the internet. But GU provided a sanctuary of like-minded souls who understood that the rest of the world were a bit weird and frustrating and shouldn’t be doing that like that because it was so hideously inefficient. Whereas being efficient meant there was more time available to do stuff that you might actually want to do.

I started off on the cycling thread, back in the days when there were links with the main online site, and I needed some cyclists to chat to. It was 2004 and I had recently moved from Cambridge to Exeter. Cambridge had been full of cyclists. I would arrive in the office having been carved up by some idiot who had no idea of the possible function of indicator lights and within minutes could find half a dozen people who would know exactly why I was fuming. Exeter had fewer cyclists, though more have taken up Jesus’s own transport since. This meant that if (fair point, ‘when’) I started to fume about a driver, I was met with a blank stare followed by ‘well you don’t stop at traffic lights’. True, this more or less encapsulates the majority of GUT cycling threads, but I had found a spiritual home where I could join in with other cyclists.

Over the years, various of the cyclists have become real life friends. All of them have been a part of my life for better or worse. But the wonderful thing about GUT and where it differed from other cycling forums, was the fact that I could chat to so many different people. Some were MTB specialists. Others road raced. Many would go out with their local CTC and ride 70 miles in a weekend. Some of us just used a bike as transport, others for pleasure. Some of us rode 70 miles in a week, some of us perhaps thought there was no need to go giddy and might have clocked that up in a month. Of Sundays. But we were united by the fact that we all knew a smidsy when we saw one

Then there was Late Flowering Love, started by halfnelson some time back in 1952. (Have we found halfnelson, is he in the life raft? Or has he sunk, like many a soggy sockpuppet?) Basically, halfnelson asked if anyone had any experience of love “flowering” later in life (probably not if you use language that twee).

It was variously pointed out, in some cases several times, that:

32 (Nelson’s alleged age at the time) is not late, ffs; Nelson should move out of his parents’ home; Nelson should stay at home, it’s normal for 32-year old men to live at home. In Italy; Nelson should pay for sex. If nelson does pay for sex, it will entirely scupper any chance he ever has of getting it for free.

Also mentioned: better shoes; amateur dramatics; housework; mortgages; caring for the elderly; a dead boa constrictor; narrow-minded, prejudiced class bias; sex in alleyways; Shirley Bassey; speed dating; seediness; setting up megaduck with halfnelson; buying a Travelodge; weightwatchers; Timothy; sharks and Hitler obsessions; salsa; Australians, Catholics and the Irish; nannies; the best way to do laundry; the sad story of the alley blow job, the man with disabilities and the bastard thugs; eating crisps on public transport; Scandinavian tongue and groove; a man who eats badgers for tea and yet is married; vagina dentata; pheasants and helmets; baboons and bonobos;  

(Some of that may have appeared on GUT before which I think might technically mean GU owns the copyright, but since they switched it off, do the rules apply anymore? No, I think not. I wrote it, it’s mine, cock off if you disagree).

LFL then became, briefly, one of GU’s favourite soap operas as ChampagneRocker met and obsessed over a beautiful Colombian cleaner. Unfortunately he failed to remove his mittens for long enough to get her phone number. Once this act had finally been achieved and she went round to his house for cake (I don’t think that was a euphemism), it turned out that sometimes, the stunningly beautiful are terminally boring and obsessed with busses. A character known as DonkeyDerbyDay may or may not have been dithering about whether or not to ask out a ShyGuy but enough about me, err, that. Someone at this stage remarked that it was like watching pandas mate and the panda label stuck, along with many, many recipes for bamboo.

And who can forget the Silly Question thread, though many of us may have splashed around so much mind bleach that we were in danger of unconsenting interplanetary sex one more time. Leftie asked a seemingly simple, if slightly silly, question: Can I swim with a tampon in? And the slightly more baffling corollary: how do I deal with the pain?

What followed might have been innocuous (if you don’t mind discussing ladybits, and GUT never minded a good discussion of ladybits. Or, now I think of it, any discussion of ladybits). The thread could have ended round about post 10, after it had been explained that yes, you can swim with a tampon in, though if you’re not used to using them it might help to practise putting them in beforehand and that no, they don’t hurt. You can feel them if you don’t put them in far enough but there are very few nerve endings in there so you can’t feel them so long as you push them up far enough.

There also followed some handy extra hints to these basics:

Cut your fingernails; The merits of applicator versus non-applicator; Widthways expansion (strangely not as fun and exciting as it sounds, especially on the way out); Rollerskating, horseriding and surfing (white jeans obligatory for the first). And that really should have been that, although there was a presage of things to come round about post 3 when someone <cough, Blueshadow, cough> commented that:

They soak up all the water and expand to the size of a small cushion, you will need a doctor’s latex-gloved hand or a sink plunger to get the bugger out.

And this as much as anything set the tone for what was to follow. There was talk of belts and towels: mooncups; towels vs tampons; ecology and wings; the European Sanitary Towel Mountain (sadly, no more details were developed, despite vague thoughts about what the mountaineers might look like); the hazards of unintended Brazilians; what to do with that little piece of string (pee on it, mainly). At some point around here the conversation turned to a comparison of various sexual practices (GUers were blunter than I have just been) versus using a finger to insert a tampon, a conversation which the majority of the cast and onlookers thought they would never have.

Then there was a discussion about the length of time you can leave a cotton mouse up your chuff and the practicalities of posting after dieing of Toxic Shock. We had sleeping in your knickers; whether or not you can smell someone who uses towels; the pain of vaginismus; comic sans on mooncups; medium size eggs and whether you can fit them up your toots; washable towels; diva cups and women’s football teams. And Lazlo’s favourite saucepan. Who can forget the favourite Polish saucepan in which his ex used to boil her mooncup. I think it was enamel and had a royal crest – the saucepan, not the mooncup. Or the ex. Please somebody tell me that Lazlo is on one of the life rafts and not adrift on the ethernet somewhere with only the ghost of a saucepan for company. This is GUT, we do not leave people behind (well we probably do leave some of them, but not Lazlo).

Talk was a village. It was my internet home. And the Guardian moderators erased it with the flick of a switch. You only find out the true character of your lover when they split up with you. So here’s hoping that, like someone who dumps his girlfriend by phone and then asks ‘can we still be friends’, the moderators realise that the coward’s way out is not always the easy path it first appeared to be.

108 thoughts on “Ode to GUT, or The Death of a Talkboard

  1. Memories of GU: the way everyone rallied about posters when they were in distress (I’m quite certain that GU Talk saved at least one life), Blueshadow’s real-time experiment with viagra, announcing the birth of my son, Milton Keynes being razed by Combat Wombats (don’t ask!), making a lot of friends and even a few enemies, having my mind changed by posters far cleverer and more persuasive than myself, being reduced to tears of laughter in the middle of my office on many occasions. It’s been a massive part of my life for the last 11 years. I feel bereft.

    1. I had forgotten the combat wombats. I am so pleased you reminded me. I think I might even have coined the term.

  2. A sad tale of someone cut off from most of what was happening at GU. There was more to the site than The Haven.

    The rabid debates about religion, the endless battles over global warming, the attacks on 3 successive American Presidents, the obsessive Israel/Palestine arguments, the often erudite historical discussions…..

    Perhaps, above all else the total demolition of every single WMD claim before and after the invasion of Iraq, often long before anyone in the world’s mass media had smelled a fish. On one occasion, within 36 hours, there was an extremely detailed demolition of a much touted claim, worked out on the basis of published photographs and commercial information available on the Web, whereas the CIA analysis, six months later, was still utterly wrong.

    What is also missing is the way that one section after another deteriorated over the years, for various reasons.

    1. I wrote it as an obituary David, so I kept the negative stuff out, apart from acknowledging that I had no doubt about the Guardian’s right to remove it. I spent little time in the Haven. The examples I’ve given were drawn from Advice – which was silly at times and immensely useful at others – and Issues which was about religion and cycling, and people who perhaps had a problem telling the difference between the two.
      I made it clear there would be omissions – the deterioration was plain to everyone, although a great deal of that was due to lack of moderation and lack of promoting the site. But at a time when many people are just missing GUT, I wanted to accentuate the positive.

  3. That’s a beautifully-written obit Helen. Thank you. I shall share it so others can see how much it meant to so many of us. I loved GUT far more than was healthy and I loved “talking” on there. I made real life friends and I got quite a bit of work from it too, tho I never went on there for either. It was a place to go, a sanctuary. Like Cheers, a place where someone always knew your name. And while I didn’t like everyone there and know many didn’t like me – or the way I posted – that’s just part of online life .

    To pull the plug on it without any warning at all does indeed feel spiteful and shows that after all those years, they did not know what a wonderful creature they had given birth to. It was the best site on the net by quite some way – and I’ve been online since the early 90s. It was the crack cocaine of the internet. It was pure gold.

    And they did not know what they had and they never appreciated it.

    But our community lives on. It has found another place where it will flourish. It may even in time be better than when the Guardian hosted it. Because we always knew they could pull the plug. At anytime. We knew they could.

    But we never, ever, really thought they’d do it quite so callously and with such apparent lack of feeling.

    Thanks Helen.

  4. I am certain that GU saved lives. There have been extremely dark, agonised times when it was my only refuge and people I have never met, and maybe never will meet, pulled me through.

    It’s been amazing to watch so many people meet, marry, have babies. We have had deaths – and one poster’s final illness and death was attended and mourned in a way that only happens in communities. We all loved her and watched her go, and remember her still.

    It was, indeed, a home. It has given me what my childhood home never did – a sense of security outside of it, because one carried the sense of community inside. I can do things I could never do before, because GU made me bolder.

    Whoever walked out of Guardian HQ on Friday and switched us off – they simply have no idea. The comment about our practically having invented social networking – this was at once patronising and to misunderstand completely what the term actually means. Social networking is not just a buzzy expression meaning “geeks playing at being friends”. It is what society actually is – a complex web of friendship, love, ongoing pique, humour, care, responsibility, rage, and tolerance.

    Whoever decided to wipe away our community without reason or warning is an unmitigated cunt.

    1. I have a fantasy that it was MI5 what shut it down because it was being used by terrorists for nefarious purposes.

      It makes me feel a little bit less like something’s been ripped out of me mid thread, what with suffering as part of the greater good of mankind and all that.

      Personally, I hated them from the moment they first deleted a 3000 post thread about the JFK assassination, which was the most brilliant discussion about the entire subject I think many people have been a part of in years.

      That, and banning me for no good reason.

      > cunts

    2. Beautifully put, Jane.
      I think the Guardian seriously underestimated the depth of feeling on GUT. As soon as I found out, I started to think ‘Oh god, I hope Jones and Smith are OK’. I think my last post was on the Overcoming Depression thread, during a discussion about how much the thread meant to some people.
      I know GUT saved lives. And I know that during my recent illness friends from GUT made an enormous difference to my own wellbeing. There were deep friendships on there. And acquaintances. And bickering. And feuds. It provided a community to people .
      Recently it had become quite inward-looking – I don’t doubt it needed new blood. I don’t doubt that International caused many headaches. But I shall miss the old place.

    3. Whoever walked out of Guardian HQ on Friday and switched us off – they simply have no idea.
      I’ve been a Guardian reader for 30 years and I don’t think I’ve ever been shocked by anything they’ve done (surprised sometimes tho!). Finding GUT gone with no warning on Friday evening was a real shocker, it has changed my whole feeling about the paper. No longer can I think of it as cuddly and well-meaning, if sometimes misguided, in reality it is just as callous as any other news organisation.
      This is a wonderful obitury for GUT, Helen. It sums up well many of the great things about it. Hopefully one of the replacement attempts will succeed in keeping the spirit alive!

      1. Yes – their image as left-wing and caring has been shot to pieces. I really am genuinely concerned about some posters. I have myself shed a tear, or more. I know how much GUT meant to everyone on it but I’m especially concerned about some people.
        Heck, if you already catastrophise, this will just confirm that you are right to do so.

  5. Helen, you’ve encapsulated the sense of loss that so many people are feeling. Wonderfully put.

  6. Helen thank you. Agree with everything you have written and thanks to all the wonderful witty posters who, as Kerebus says, made me cry with laughter at my desk without even knowing it. And now I just want to cry. Plus everything Lawlsie and Jane said too.

  7. Excellent blog, Helen. I’ve not felt the urge to shed any tears before now, my anger at the guardian carrying me through, but this has really brought it home.

  8. Nice elegy. Yes, there were loads of trolls and ments and spats and vilenesses. There were tribes – and hence there was tribal warfare. But it was also one big tribe. I can’t explain to my non-GUT friends how bereft I suddenly feel. I realise now that I kept reading and occasionally posting because I loved it there.

    Anyhow, the mighty Tasselhoff has set us up with a temporary refuge shelter at http://wc6.worldcrossing.com/ and there are other knots of survivors clinging to other rafts here and there.

    1. Hey – hope you’re OK, Aloy. I was amazed at how angry I felt on Friday. I slept really badly and had the weirdest dreams and kept saying ‘it was a talkboard, get a grip’. Then I started feeling sad. Writing this helped, but now I realise just how much it has affected people. So now I just feel odd, and a bit at sea.

  9. Absolutely lovely. Bravo Helen.

    I hope a certain Mr R7ubbisher reads this at 9 am tomorrow. He probably won’t, he’ll be sitting in his crumpled suit and shirt wondering how he can put a few more plugs for Apple in his paper.

  10. Fantastic post blog, Helen. Thanks for the laughs.

    I wandered away some time ago, partly due to workload, partly to ennui at the stagnation you mention. But I flitted past and peeked through windows on the odd late night and it was an enormous shock to find it gone on Friday. I never thought I’d still feel so attached to the place. And no, I haven’t deleted the bookmark. After 12 years, I reckon it can stay for a bit longer.

    All signed up at the lifeboat and sincerely hope that Tass and Co can make a go of it after April. Happy to donate hard bunce if the flare goes up (reserving, natch, the right to summarily revoke said offer at the first hint of a smiley).

    A side-effect of my diffident non-flounce was that I never found a moment to say what a great bunch of lads you all are, even the utter facepalming gritpypes.

    I’m @Wireman on Twitter. I’ll follow back.

    1. People on the GU thread were pleased you’d resurfaced, Wireman! Will find you on Twitter, if I haven’t already. It’s been a busy few days…

  11. Great article Helen. Sums up a lot of what the site was about. It was the best place on the internet by a long way, and the sheer breadth and depth of the duscissions was key to that. Where else can you go from talking about international affairs (and the debates that raged over Iraq, WMD and pulling those arguments to pieces was astoundingly good – I learned masses over that period from GUT) to picking apart inconsistencies in song lyrics, to advice on anything and everything, deep science questions. Everything was there.

    It was the first internet site I ever met people in real life from, and made a few friends from. At the time I vaguely thought that might be the future, and this was something new being invented. But it’s true, the Guardian never understood or appreciated what they had.

    Certainly it become worse towards the end, increasingly full of cliques, scok-puppets and trolls in international. But largely that was due to the Guardian hiding it away so no new blood ever found it. Had they carried on with links from relevant articles to discussions, more would have been pulled in, as so many of the regulars were 10 years ago.

    Very sad, and extremely shoddy treatment.

    1. Interesting today to see that many CiF regulars had no idea that GUT existed. So even people interacting with GU hadn’t found it. GU pretty much did everything it could to kill it off. And then actually killed it.
      I don’t know what happened – maybe it was legal. But they had abandoned us long before Friday.

  12. I “discovered” GU Talk almost at it’s inception. For nearly 10 years I was a participant and through discussion with others I learned a lot about tolerance and respect for other views different from my own. I can say that GU Talk helped me understand myself and others in a better and more positive way. However, over the last 2 years (2009-2010) a new group of posters seemed to take over, not interested in respectful discussion, but it using the medium as a sounding board for their own hostility, hatred, and ant-social ideology. The ‘mods’, in my opinion, encouraged this behavior and I quite posting in 2010 once and for all. I for one wasn’t sorry to see it go, it outlived its purpose and usefulness. As a sidenote, my wife never understood my attraction to GU Talk.

  13. Lovely, Helen, a fitting tribute to GUT, which has been many things to so many people for the last eleven years! Thanks.

    1. Well the ideas kind of floated around for a while on Friday. I tried writing it but it’s never as good on paper as it is in your head. Then on Saturday I had an Argh I Can’t Write crisis. Once I’d asked myself ‘why will I miss GUT’ it pretty much wrote itself though.

  14. Well said Donks!

    GUT was a community. Not so much of a tribe as a local pub.

    People you don’t want to talk to and people you do want to talk to, and people you just enjoy overhearing. All mixed up, and always someone there.

  15. Many thanks for all the comments. I am reaching for tissues, on the internet. NO. *Not* like that.

    Just a quick note to say I have to approve the first comment someone submits. There’s a joke about the mods there – but I haven’t the heart. I can’t check in much today until this evening so please don’t be offended if your comment does not appear for a while. I’ll approve the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s just the creepy I won’t tolerate!

  16. Hi Helen.

    This was beautiful. I’m kind of struggling to work out who you were on GUT (My brain and names…) but I really hope you’re on the liferaft.


  17. helenblackman
    You speak for so many of us on GUT. Your ode is marvellous and expresses the sadness of the Guardian’s decision to fold up Guardian talk as well as the regret that we feel as individual posters. Thank you.

  18. Thanks Helen.

    The loss of GUT came as a terrifying blow; where else can I while away the hours after my next operation? It saved my sanity in 02 (broken leg), 04 (appendix), 05 (arthroscopy) 09 (foot reattachment) 10 (arthroscopy). End to end, that was a year when I couldn’t leave the house, but GUT was there to entertain, inform, enrage. There were threads I never went on because the whiff of middle class smug, or freeper rage, or just completely alien thought processes (like people who work in offices; who would do that out of choice?) was too great.

    But it was a real place, and it did real good. Orangechewit and Dark Womble might not be with us otherwise, to name but 2.

    I shall keep up on thegraun, and hope that a phoenix re-emerges.

  19. “But GU provided a sanctuary of like-minded souls who understood that the rest of the world were a bit weird and frustrating and shouldn’t be doing that like that because it was so hideously inefficient. ”
    In other words – Guardian Talkboard users were special and different and wonderful.

    Just like everyone else on the internet.


  20. Thanks for this helen, a very fitting tribute. I’d been on there in one form or another for nearly 10 years, and it’s always been entertaining, & informative; but more than that GU had heart.

    Hats off to Tass & co for acting on what most of us thought was unthinkable (for gods sake don’t start him on peak oil…), but it’ll never be the same as that insane ragbag of a place; the one – the only….


  21. Great and thank you. Will miss GUT, so many years and discussions, didn’t realise it had gone as was involved with what was happening in Libya. Will miss you all. Bye

  22. Thanks Helen. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Perhaps the Grauniad is gathering its pennies together in case the GMG’s tax avoidance ruse hits problems.

    Incidentally, anyone with a little spare time – and that might be the case for some after Friday – there’s a UK Uncut demo about their (too) little tax problem…


  23. lovely post. Thanks. I was pushed aside very often and sometimes bullied (it wasn’t the bed of flowers some people seem to remember now, after the shock of losing GUTalk) but for a few years it was my mostly ONLY contact with other human beings when I was severely depressed and agoraphobic.

    I’m off to Gregg’s to cry a bit
    (just kidding) 😀


  24. The thing that was special about GU was a significant sense of community that existed in (at least parts of) it.

    I know of few places where IT help at all technical levels was as readily available.

    As an aside, here is a reminder of a kind of special day in which many of we nerds from GUT’s IT & Computing section turned up at Bletchley Park:

    Alan Turing Statue

    and most of the group with our guide, Jean Valentine:

    Group Photo with Jean Valentine

    1. I did enjoy your posts on GU today PW. As you said, there’s always a choice.
      Still, we can all head on over to The Graun and forget about the gritpypes.

    2. “many of we nerds…”

      Us nerds, FFS! 🙂

      I’ll miss all the computer info from you, blacksunday, and everyone else.

  25. Beautifully put together .. I agree with the comment about your rivalling the best-known elegist

    With all the heartfelt outpourings, and the long history of association between many of you gutted mourners, I feel a little shy about mentioning my own short-lived awareness of GUT. I was nevertheless shaken by the (insert all the best descriptions of the perpetrators and the event)

    For those who haven’t found it, this insider’s blog may add a small amount of light (not enough to see our way clearly) and many GUT-ers show their presence:
    The author 0ffers this sop:
    There are already several sites we have found where GUTalkers are gathering together like thegraun, Guardian Talk on Proboards, an Ancientsofgraun Yahoo! Group, and an Exiles from GUTalk group on Facebook.

    I’m off to the Graun, and then elsewhere, to see if I can find the Book Talk crowd.
    All the best Helen B and all refugees

  26. Thank you for this Helen, you’ve captured so much that I’ve been dithering about expressing. After a long break from GUT (my work decided to give me more to do!) I returned to try and find out some more about the place I was about to move to. Consequently I moved to Brighton knowing where to buy the best sausages, which restaurants were likely to throw you out if you got too drunk, how ozone would improve my life, and how to avoid (or meet) swinging Satanists on the South coast (and so much more that made me love Brighton even before I got here!). The Brighton thread encapsulated so much about my experience of GUT, informative, thought-provoking, friendly, celebratory and most importantly often side-achingly funny. And before I go Helen – which is better kittens or penguins?

  27. Hey Helen, you can really write, I know that shouldn’t be a surprise but it’s a TRUEFACT. And after going to THAT school and THAT college.

    1. Hey, the first time people have been glad to see a shark circling the lifeboats!
      That college was fine – MY MUM taught there. Though I don’t think she was ever in a coke can. You can slag that school off as much as you like though.
      But it was GUT that taught me how to write – you were a tough crowd but wonderful with it. Thanks for all the laughs over the years.

  28. So sorry to hear this, and worried at what might have caused it. I havent been on GUT for a couple of years, but I’ve been posting on CiF for a while. Definitely helped me learn to write with all the force I aspired to.

    Possibly more…

  29. Thank you Donks. I mourn the passing of GUT – it was a significant part of my life for twelve years, and a complete lifeline when I was suddenly widowed. I remember the wonderfully tender support I had from people I had been .talking to online at the time. And if it hadn’t been for a GUT meet-up in Windsor some months after that, I wouldn’t have met 10smith, the second MrJ28. Many GUT friends have become RL friends, and even of those I have never met, I probably know more about than I do about some of my RL friends. On (rare) occasions I may even miss the American right-wing nutjobs. I hope Tasselhoff’s site takes off in the same way.

  30. I’d forgotten all about the tampon thread – how can you forget something like that? I remember crying with laughter – especially at blue’s comment – but over the years there were so many threads like that, so many treads where I cried with laughter.

    At times, GU made me cry for other reasons and on Friday, I felt as if an old, old, friend, with whom I’d shared so much passion and love and energy, had dumped me and I cried again.

    The fuckers.

    I met MrHeen on GU.

    I’ve never met most of you but I felt like I knew you and that meeting irl didn’t matter because the realtionship I had with you all was a wholly different type of relationship. In many ways, far more intense than some rl relationships – why is that? Is it the medium or the personal nature of reading someone’s thoughts and being drawn in to that intimacy?

    Anyway, fuck ’em. They didn’t have a clue about GU and what it was all about. You all got me through university, a breakdown and gave me so many things to laugh about, to think about and to cry about.

    I love youse guys!

  31. Thanks Helen. I was away for the weekend with limited internet access, though I found out about the demise of GUT on Friday. I discovered it soon after I bought my first PC and followed the threads ever since. Very entertaining and occasionally instructive. I am sure we have all thought that we were spending too much time there, but that’s an indication of how good it was.

    But after two computers, three jobs and four love affairs over the last ten years I am glad that we have a new place to go and continue.

  32. Regardless of the testimony of the survivors, it is the case that the disaster was natural and uncaused by supernatural fetid pixies.

  33. Thank you so much for writing this. I spent almost 10 years lurking and sporadically posting , and when GUTalk was shut off I felt like my whole world had gone away (hyperbole alert).

    You’ve summed it up beautifully.

  34. When, like me, you frequently spend days if not weeks on an oil rig, waiting for the weather to change or for something to be fixed, with absolutely bugger-all squared to do until then, you need every distraction you can find, and the GUT provided this for me in spades. I only ever met a couple of other posters, largely due to not living anywhere where there were any other posters, but I certainly found there were some towards whom I developed (hopefully reciprocated) genuinely warm feelings. Some days were better than others, but it was rare for a week to go by without at least one post making me laugh like an idiot for several minutes, without being able to begin to explain to my perplexed colleagues exactly what was so funny.

    Now that is has gone, I find myself feeling extremely well disposed towards all those who posted there, even many of those that I would have said that I disliked before the plug was pulled.

    Good blog, Helen. I agree with just about everyone that you summed it up very nicely.

  35. I’ve been so busy for weeks now that I’ve barely checked in. Tried there today and WTF?! Ah well, thank heavens for Free Republic which had its own rumours recently…

    Thanks to everyone for ten years of my life with lots of fun and lots of time I’ll never get back.

    Good to hear about those relationships started on GUT, but dagnabbit, I really thought I was in there with Pier39. Another few months and she’d have been mine… Bastards!

  36. Thanks Helen.

    Almost a week on and I still feel bereft.

    Oh, I can email people, talk on other sites and life will carry on regardless, no doubt. And in a hundred years, none of it will make any difference or matter one jot.

    But, somehow, a small piece of our lives has been taken away from us. The shared laughter at jokes that couldn’t be explained to non GU-ers, the holding hands across the ether to the bereaved or bereft, the advice, silly and sensible alike, to those of enquiring minds, the sharing of successes and commiserating the failures, the flirting and the fighting.

    All of it. Gone. Just like that.

    And my life will be a little sadder for it.

  37. I have been away for a couple of weeks, and came back to find….no GUT.

    I have read, and laughed at, and sometimes posted on, GU for about 8 years. It’s been my Secret Life on the Internet; I have been to no meet ups, met no one irl as a result, and that’s suited me. But I have learnt tons of stuff as well as laughing, and relished the various nooks and crannies of Talk over the years.

    Good obit.

    Now I’ll have to find somewhere else!

  38. I began posting about 10 weeks before my 6th child was born, and soon became a member of the lovely Haven Fruitbat Aunties, which then morphed into the Preg thread, begun by iBos and Tekaha. I have been privileged to be be a virtual part of many births (who could forget the online birth of T, daughter of sion and len, at home with realtime updates?) as we shared child rearing hints, the List, birth stories, POASing etc. And I do believe that my 7th child conceived at the unearthly age of 44, was due in part to the hormones wafting off that thread.

    1. That’s lovely, moonski. I think the Pregnancy thread is one of the ones many people were most worried about, given the abrupt ending and the fact that so many people shared experiences on there. I think it has been resurrected in the other places so here’s hoping it can be successful in its new home/s.

  39. I’ve only just found your lovely obituary Helen, and thank you so much for that. After more than 10 years on the boards I felt so bereft to find them so suddenly gone. Thank you also for the link to where some of the survivors are. I can remember people wondering years ago if the boards could survive, but it all seemed to keep going somehow. I too met good friends through it, in real life as well as online and have always been so grateful for that. So many names spring to mind and so many wonderful threads. So many laughs and tears. I’ve just lost my husband and to lose GUT as well seemed almost the last straw.
    Best wishes and good luck to all those who have been part of such a wonderful community.

    1. Hi Zirphie. There are quite a few people over on NotTheTalk and thegraun – I’m sure they would be glad to see you over there. There’s no doubt that, whatever its faults, GUT provided a lot of support for people. It would be a great shame to lose that, so here’s hoping the new places can become better and stronger.

  40. Some truly guffaw moments on the caption competition thread that I will never forget.

    Great obit, Helen.

  41. Very sad to learn of this. It has been some years since I was on GU Talk. None the less, I had a great deal of fun debating almost anything with loads of different folks. Those I liked the most were often posters whom I disagreed with the most. A metaphore for life perhaps.

    Anyway, thanks for the time GU. Best of luck to all my cyberfriends as well as adversaries. Most of you are pretty cool and it was a pleasure to know you, if only via a modem and keyboard.

  42. I’ve got a huge amount of work done since they pulled the plug. But God, I miss it. All that grafting since February – is it really worth it?

    That was a heart warming eulogy to GUT.

  43. Hi, DDD – I never clocked that you were female!

    Your obit’s a nice elegy to GU Talk. I’d be happy to expand it, as many have done here, mentioning those threads that made us nearly cough up a ‘nad (the Q&A with the Barefoot Doctor being perhaps the ‘Del Boy falling through the bar’ of its time), but, importantly for me and others, I met real people through it who’ve continued to be part of my life, and for that, I am profoundly thankful.

    It simply makes me reflect more archly upon the Graun, that they can produce a paper that it so luke warm compared to its past and so achingly cosmopolitan and shitty (Weekend, of course) and yet to kill off the inspired anarchy that was GU Talk. Certainly, it had its mentalists, best avoided, but at its best it was informative, funny – laugh out loud and try to hide it from fellow office drones – sympathetic, erudite, rude and one of the few places on the internet where you would be judged by your character and brain power. Nowhere else like it. Certainly not CiF.

    Time to stop rambling. Top post, DDD, keep writing, stay cool.


    AKA Lankybloke

  44. Sandrine here… Just found out it ceased to be… on this strange night.

    I wonder if anyone remembers me. This was the only place left (and now its gone!) on the planet where I could just be Sandrine, not “Sandrine24″ or SandrineDL” etc and so on. Well, maybe there are still a few places, but none like GUT. Gawd, I loved ya… crazy International (apologies!). The humah! Gawd, the humah. And a lot of excellent discussions wrapped in fights wrapped in debates… lots of learning. Wit. This American whittled away many an hour, day, week, year here.

    Now london is burning and where are all of you? I hope safe. I hope things will change… for the better. Maybe I will find some of you…


    Maybe I sh

    1. Many people from GUT have gone over to Not The Talk, Sandrine. There is a thread there to discuss the London riots. Think everyone’s safe but there is some nasty stuff going on.
      Plus, lots of free sports wear.

    1. You got filtered into the spam folder to start and I’m not sure if I should have let you out or not! Apologies if you aren’t spamming. If you are, ach well.
      Not sure to whom you are referring. I don’t post on any of the successor sites any more, so I wouldn’t be able to give you any news about what is going on on them.

  45. I’ve just seen this. I went looking to see if I could access the ‘Where are the weapons of mass destruction’ (International) thread from an archive somewhere. I found the fuller but still inadequate explaination page on the Guardian. It had a link to here as y’know.

    I’ve been on a number of forums over the past year including RD Net which went the same way. I couldn’t bring myself to any of the Faux GUTs. I feel right now a wave of nostalgia. I feel like Dorothy “there’s no place like home”. I’d trusted The Guardian for… a life, and now I don’t. My mum went mad, killed my friends and burnt the village down.

    Well now I must move on. Thanks for a last chance to say goodbye and thanks for the memories. – Grey (+ Godwin – Banned once for the ‘Spartacus’ revolt 🙂

    1. Hi Grey, so you started the Spartacus revolt! I think it was before my time, but it was the stuff of GUT myth. You’re right though I think about the Faux GUTs. They aren’t the same. There are still some really lovely people on them but with the reduced number of posters, there are some cliques, and some of them are rather nastier than others.
      That said, some people on Not The Talk, in particular Ebadlun, kept some threads. You might find what you’re looking for if you ask there.

  46. RIP GUT.
    That sounds better if you pronounce the letters separately. It’s been a funny old year, and I still miss you. Mind you, I have written a novel since your demise, so perhaps it was time to let go.

    1. Hi Helen,

      I came back here since elsewhere on thatInterwebs the Graun is bigging up Georgina Henry. I’ve been opining over at http://flythenest.freeforums.org/ that perhaps she wasn’t the saint that the Graun would have her be, given that CiF led to our demise.

      Curious, isn’t it? Losing GUT still feels like an open, but slowly healing wound. Getting banned from CiF simply persuaded me that CiF is produced by and for idiots for the most part.

      Hope all is well chez DDD…

  47. This is a lovely read. Have been away from GUT for years, and only now find it’s gone. Am wondering whether an explanation has been given, and if any archives were handed over. Looks like NotTheTalk is the only survivor.

  48. All these years – all the time on NTT/JTT, and it’s loss is still keenly felt. Even if we know why (or at least some of the unpleasant reasons), 9 years on and GUT is still truly missed. There will never be anything fully like it ever again.

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