On Mafia Dons and Tropical Fish

When I think of younger, bolder periods of my life, I often define them (in my own head) as phases, or chapters if I’m feeling particularly sentimental. There’s been a lot of distinct periods, each sharply defined.

There was uni, where I was a wrinkle-free, thick-haired idiot, a fresher who gave a damn about nothing beyond GTA V and Lambrini. Then there was Sheffield, where I got all lean and dangerous and started wearing leather jackets. Berlin was probably the closest I’ll ever come to a goth phase, although I suppose you could also call it my ‘ketamine era’. In Australia I was all outdoorsy and calloused and functioningly alcoholic. And so on.

This current period though – New London, we’ll call it, because I failed miserably last time I tried to move here and ended up sprinting away to Central America to lick my wounds and eat endless tacos instead – I don’t know what it really is. What defines it? I keep having sudden electric notions that I need to do something – something large, something with heft – but I’m not particularly sure what. It’s just a nagging sensation; my inner child or shoulder angel or whoever the hell tugging gently but insistently at my t-shirt saying “Come on Dan – go for it!”

And I say: “Okay sure. Go for what?”

And then the inner child shoulder angel just shrugs and saunters off to make some cheese on toast, leaving me with the guilty sense that I’m wasting time by languishing in indecision.

I feel like all those fish at the end of Finding Nemo, when they escape the dentist’s laboratory by flushing themselves down the loo in plastic bags. They pop up, eventually, in the majestic freedom of the ocean, and then realise they’re still inside their plastic bags. ‘Now what?’ they say. Is that relevant? I dunno.

London, more than any other city on earth, is rife with this feeling. It’s infectious, the sense that, if you were just a little bit cleverer, a bit grittier, more determined, more wily, then you could turn your whole life around right now. You walk around the streets and boroughs here and you get the feeling that everything you want (even if it’s totally nebulous) is just around the corner – if only you move fast enough, pick the right corner, dress the part and don’t fuck up your opening monologue. Acta non verba, u get me fam.

I like this feeling; it’s good. Gives you pep and vim and zip. It also makes you feel damn guilty all the time. Every time the sun goes down and I haven’t successfully booted my life into overdrive, I experience between one and three hours of micro-anguish. I could have done more, I tell myself, regardless of what I actually did do. I know you’re meant to celebrate little wins and whatnot, and I do try. I often lie in bed before going to sleep and recount every good thing I did that day. I’m pretty generous with what I count as as ‘thing’:

I woke up and had a big stretch, and that was pretty nice. Then I made a coffee, and it was yummy. I read a chapter of a book, which is cool, and then did Duolingo for 15 minutes, hell yeah!

Annoyingly, this does actually work. I feel much more stable and productive and happy when I finish my days this way. And I sleep like a great hunk of moss*.

*Look, not every simile can be good.

Still though, I wish I could hurry things up a little, if only so I could afford to buy some shelves and houseplants for my room, or switch to a slightly more upmarket brand of baked bean. My desires are not lavish. I know it’ll get better eventually, but gah, I’m here now.

I often fantasise about walking down the street on a sunny afternoon and saving the life of an elderly, well-dressed gentleman – I don’t know, maybe I’d boot him out of the path of an errant Deliveroo scooter or something. As I helped him up and dusted off his hat for him and popped it back upon his balded crowd, he’d look at me and flash a gold tooth as he smiled, introducing himself as Don Giovanni, from Sicily. He’d thank me for saving him, and tell me he never forgets a good deed. He’d ask me if there was anything I wanted – anything in the world. And I’d prod the pavement with the tip of my shoe, hands behind my back, and finally I’d say:

“Well, I suppose I’m working on a novel.”

And Don Giovanni would be thrilled to hear it. He’d praise me for not simply asking for money or fame, and as a consequence he’d arrange a series of meetings for me with literary agents so I could pitch them my manuscript. And then, and then – ah, blah blah. It’d be nice, wouldn’t it?

Anyway. Got things to do. Must dash. Sometimes I write World Hangover as procrastination from editing my novel, which is insane of course, because that’s like going to the gym to procrastinate going to the gym. I think it’s because these diaries are a lot more slapdash; I don’t not care about them – I do, quite a bit – but I just sort of wang them out in 45 minutes and take them at face value. As much as I love them, they don’t particularly matter. They serve no real purpose, and that makes them fun.

Maybe there’s a lesson in that, somewhere. I dunno. Too busy dreaming up wicked schemes to ponder all that.

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