I’ve been ever so slightly concerned about my recent erratic behaviour, ever so slightly concerned that over the weekend I sought (and took on board) the advice of an ant.
Picture this, if you can be bothered. It’s Sunday and I’m sitting in my Nan’s back garden chainsmoking. The bulk of my chainsmoking, incidentally, takes place in pubs, but if the financial gods are against me – as they often are – then I’m forced to conduct my chainsmoking in my Nan’s back garden. This is not good. It’s mainly not good because my Nan is unaware – or gives the impression of being unaware – of my smoking and I’m forced to come up with excuses as to why I’m spending huge chunks of my time in her back garden. For a while, I pretended that I was very enthusiastic about using my telephone; I would say things like “I’ve just got to phone one of my editors” or “I’m going to call my agent. Big things are happening you know. Very big things” and off I’d go to hide and smoke. But not now. Now my phone’s bust and she knows my phone’s bust and so I’ve started saying: “Oh, I think I’m going to do some press ups in the garden” and off I go to not do press ups – in fact, to do the exact opposite of press ups – and I suspect my Nan is worried that I’ve got some sort of muscle wasting disease because the result of all these press ups is unapparent. If anything, my arms and chest are getting smaller. This is no way for a 35-year-old man to live. I don’t think I need to tell you this.
Fuck, where were we? Yes, smoking. No, ants. So, I was staring at an ant in the garden and it was crawling towards a crack in the concrete and I thought: “If that ant crawls into that bit of concrete, it means I need to get away.”
About a day later, two things occurred to me. First, that this has the makings of a book, a book about a man who bases all his decisions on the actions of small animals. It’d be like The Dice Man but watered down and, unbelievably, worse. Perhaps Danny Wallace could write it. My second thought was better. My second thought was: If a man bases his decision about going away on whether or not an ant crawls into a bit of concrete, then perhaps he needs to get away regardless of what that ant does.
So, I’m going away. To Mallorca. Tomorrow. For how long I don’t know. I just phoned up my bank to tell them that I would be away for a while and when the telephone operator asked me where I was going and for how long I didn’t want to just say Mallorca as I thought she might think I’m a bit shit, so I said: “Mallorca. For a bit. For how long I don’t know. And then I might be going to Malawi for a while.”
When I got off the phone I thought, “Well maybe I WILL go to Malawi for a while. I have a friend out there who keeps (twice) asking me to go and see him. Perhaps it’s better to take heed of my own words, the ones that come out of my own mouth, rather than the advice of an ant.”
I read something the other day and it’s the real reason I want to get away. Here it is:
It is hard work to slaughter a beast but when it is done it is done. If you are MAKING ART the labour never ends, no peace, no Sabbath, just eternal churning and cursing and worrying and fretting and there is nothing else to think of but the idiots who buy it or the insects destroying TWO DIMENSIONAL SPACE.
The capitals aren’t mine. And it’s not that I’m making art, but journalism can feel like eternal churning and cursing and worrying and fretting and I need to run away from it for a while and drink three bottles of red wine a day and take two swims a day and maybe – you never know – just relax for a bit.