Those of you that have read How to Do Fuck All – Part One will recall that, in the interests of science, I decided to spend a day doing nothing. This is my record of that day.
Diary of Fuck All
9am Wake up.
10.30am Wake up again.
10.35am Reach for phone and remember I’ve left it in my desk drawer downstairs, where it is to remain all day. Look at ceiling for a bit.
10.45am Get up and take a shower. Ah, the shower! A place where you can’t have phones, where there is no TV nor anything, really, to do. You can just lather up and stand there like a lemon. This must be the principle behind a spa break. A great start.
11am I dress myself, but without thinking too much about it as I don’t want it to constitute doing something. I go downstairs, put on the kettle and stare at the dog while I wait for it to boil. This is the same dog that I recently caught lolling her head out of her basket so she could take a drink from her bowl without actually getting up. Today we are on the same wave-length.
11.05am I look at the drawer in which my phone lies, alone. The computer sits on the desktop above it, cold. I’m going to have to get out of here. I grab my keys and my hat and say my goodbyes. ‘You’ve got your shirt on inside out’, points out a friendly child in the hall.
Walking is good for nothing, if you see what I mean. You’re not just alone with your thoughts, but are also able to enjoy the stimulation of passing scenery together with the low-level thrill of your own rudimentary motor skills. Running would almost certainly count as doing something, but walking is almost like breathing.
Every now and again I try to take stock of what I am thinking about, to see if I am freeing up my sub-conscious to solve problems in my absence, but it’s like trying to catch your shadow. The main thing I seem to be thinking is, ‘I wonder where I’m going?’
I order egg, bacon and chips. Anything else is a bit fussy, in my opinion. Sem does a good breakfast, but it does feature the ubiquitous frozen chip. Why, I wonder, almost aloud, don’t more cafés offer fresh chips? The only place I can think of that does, off-hand, is the Millwall Cafe, which lies in the shadders of Millwall FC. I immediately reprimand myself for thinking about something useful. Then I realise that thinking is not actually doing, so figure thinking about chips is probably OK, as long as I don’t actually go to Millwall Cafe, or, worse, attempt to make chips.
Christ, this could be a long day.
While waiting for my food I catch a glimpse of an insanely alluring newspaper headline about TV presenter, Paul Ross. Everyone in the place is pointing and laughing at it – something about him, drugged cats and a bisexual dog, is it? – but I am doomed to sit in ignorance. I reach for my phone to see if there’s anything about it on Twitter. But of course my phone is not there.
At length, my food arrives. Momentarily, I worry whether eating is actually doing something. Who would have thought my day would throw up so many philosophical questions? I re-assure myself that eating can’t really count as doing something, for if I didn’t eat, then there would be no me to do anything, let alone something, or indeed nothing. Didn’t the US nu-philsopher, Merrell-Wolff, say something about food and consciousness? I go to look him up on my phone. It’s still not there. I eat.
1.30pm Fortified, I head off towards Brixton. I have no specific destination in mind but rather, I am just letting myself be led by my feelings and surroundings. When it starts to rain though, pretty soon my feelings are drenched and I duck into Brixton Village for a coffee and a dry off.
As we have noted previously, Brixton Village and Market Row are great places to have a wander. I’m not shopping. I’m mindlessly passing shop-fronts, which is nothing.
2.30pm Is drinking beer doing nothing? This is a question I wrestle with as I pass The Ritzy and mooch up Effra Road. Because if it is, I could drop into the Effra Social, the wonderful Antic-run emporium in the old Conservative club with a reputation for good ale.
But the question is academic because when I arrive, it’s closed. I wonder what time it opens? I reach for my phone to find out. For fuck’s sake. Can I not get it into my digitally-deranged skull that I don’t have it with me? To punish myself, I decide to wait for the Social to open. It might be an hour. It might be three. Whatever. I take a seat at an outside table on the pretty tree-covered forecourt. This is doing nothing, alright.
God, the Sainsbury’s opposite has got big signage. The apostrophe alone is the size of a man’s head. I know what’s happened, they’ve stuck a megastore-size sign on to a medium-sized storefront and no-one’s ever taken them to task on it. It’s absurd. I’m furious. I determine to start a campaign to get the sign size reduced and I reach for my phone to take a photograph of it…
Right, that’s it. If you reach for your phone one more time, I say to myself, I will self-harm you, do I understand? This experience is supposed to be liberating, not an exercise in living with early-onset dementia.
But now a more pressing issue forces its way into my consciousness. One of imminent lower intestinal evacuation. When is this gaff going to open for crying out loud? How long am I expected to sit here, alone amongst the leaves and the spiders?
It’s no good. Oversized sign or not, I’m taking a dump in Sainsbury’s.
3.15pm The last time I took a shit without any decent reading material was in 1983. I can still tell you everything you need to know about Silkience shampoo and conditioner, in which the conditioner, in a remarkable scientific breakthrough ‘only goes where it needs to go’. I should remember it, I read the label seven times.
Now I don’t even have that luxury, as I sit listening to my own intermittent breathing. Worse, I’m not even in Sainsbury’s, I’m in McDonald’s. Despite having a store sign only slightly less obtrusive than The Shard, the Effra Road Sainsbury’s doesn’t even offer lavs. Ridiculous. How did that get through planning? I make a mental note to add this to my list of complaints about the retailing giant.
I emerge from McDonald’s into the hurly burly of Brixton Road. Ah, people. That’s what I need. Where can I find people?
3.45pm One thing you can be sure of with a Wetherspoon pub is folk, and The Beehive on Brixton Road is no exception. On my arrival it’s already half-full and most of the punters seem to be my idle brethren. You know the type, old boys sitting alone with a pint of lager and a little pile of change that they can’t be bothered to put away and which means ‘I’m gonna be here for a while’. At first glance, these guys are simply miles ahead.
But look at their faraway eyes, their insular stances. Are they deliberately idling or are they just drugging themselves, creating an artificial euphoria (and doing a grand job of keeping it hidden)? I’m suspicious.
After my debate, and against my instincts, I order an orange juice and lemonade and settle into a window seat. Two things happen that make me realise I’ve made the wrong decision. Firstly, while gazing out into the busy street I find myself thinking about the benefits of an offset mortgage versus a regular mortgage. What the fuck? If these are my daydreams, I do not wish to be alone with them. They need some serious jazzing up, which I guess is how you become an alcoholic.
And then I feel the vibration of an incoming text message in my trouser pocket. When, oh when, will they leave me alone, I sigh to myself, and reach for my phone…
Oh Christ, what is happening to me? I’m feeling non-existent technology. I’m getting phantom buzzes, like people who still experience an itch in an amputated limb. That’s it. That’s the final straw. I return to the bar and order a giant pint of delicious foaming ale.
I reflect on my day. Have I solved any ills? Er… Have I given myself creative impetus? Well… Have I learned anything? Yes, that doing fuck all, all day, is tough – tougher than it used to be because of what we’ve become accustomed to in this tech-riddled era – and that by about 4.30pm you will really need a pint and some company.
As if on cue, Half-life arrives.
‘Alright?’ he nods, ‘What you been up to?’
‘Nothing’, I reply, honestly, and explain my day’s mission. ‘What do you do when you want some proper down-time?’ I ask him.
‘I have a girl who comes round for smack action,’ he replies.
‘Heroin. Listen, can you get me a pint in? I just gotta drop something off with Strange Martin.’