Donald Saddington - depressed journalist, 57 year-old widower, and recent migrant to East London - finds that everyone but him seems to be coasting on an Olympic feel good factor.
"BANG BANG BANG" went the front door of my hastily rented flat in Hackney, the horrendous rapping waking me with a dreadful start from a wistful dream. It starred my late wife, who was cradling a mixing bowl with her left arm and stirring purposefully with her right. Sepia sunlight dappled on honey hair and bounced off bright eyes. She was smiling at me.
"Orrwwwight mate, packidge for ya. Sign 'ere." I scribbled 'Donald Saddington'. Blinking, I ripped open the parcel on the doorstep. It was the manuscript of the novel I've been slaving over. A hand-written note from my agent Chazory Greenfingers was paper-clipped to the front. "Hi darling. Adore the sentiment but it's not quite right. Too much satire. Won't sell. Any chance you can re-write with a soupcon more shooting, dating travails and f***ing? Dirty stuff that is. That's what's Penguin wants right now. Merci cherie! Lunch next week? The Spanked Trouser? On me, naturellement. CG XX."
A commotion in the street made me look up. I squinted through the bedevilling brightness to see a long trestle table draped with Union flags. Parked around the table were dozens of buggies. One was plated in gold with Bose speakers in the sides emitting what I think my daughter called dubstep music, another hovered gently just above the ground.
I thought I recognised one of the owners of the buggies as my neighbour. She angrily chirruped in cut glass vowels to an accomplice: "I read the f***ing b***ard's texts, it must be true."
"What a f***ing sl*g."
"How could he be such a pr**k though?"
"You should chop his c**k off."
The occupants of the buggies gurgled merrily.
The woman turned and spied me eavesdropping. "Dennis! Come over here and have some nibbles at our Team GB street party. The olive oil is from Antarctica! Artisan! Antarctisan?" And with this she guffawed spectacularly. She whispered something to her friend, who grinned, then sashayed over. I felt she was flirting. "Nice pyjamas," she purred. "I'm not usually patriotic by the way, but it said in the Guardian that all this is okay now." She rummaged in her handbag and produced a fat cigarette. "Twos a joint, sweets?"
I excused myself and went back to bed. When I woke up my head was thudding. I poured a large Lagavulin and phoned my daughter. "Dad, can the animus, you're a grumpmeister because you're Scottish. Get with the programme. I'm going to a LOLOlympic party in Homerton tonight! As Laura Trott! Ooh, got to dash, Olivier is calling me. He's cycling to Burning Man Festival. Across the floor of the Atlantic!"
I grabbed at one of my late wife's cardigans and rubbed it softly against my cheek, breathing the microscopic remnants of her heady fragrance deep into my lungs. A single tear rolled down my cheek. I opened my emails. The first was from my PR, Melanie Liars. "Hi David. Please turn off your OOO. I know you're there. I'm reaching out to you say I've thought how we can leverage your wife's death! I've booked you on Nicky Campbell next..." I stopped reading.
I walked to London Fields for some fresh air. When I got there I saw two giraffes munching on leaves 20 feet in the air. On their backs sat two young men both wearing chinos, T shirts that read "Metallica" and Wayfarer sunglasses. "Have you like seen that new map function on Instagram?" said one.
"Uh huh," replied the other.
Below them two girls sat cross-legged on the grass, both wearing mint green jeans, T shirts that read "Beach House" and Wayfarer sunglasses. "Have you like seen those vintage maps on Pinterest?" said one.
"Mmm hmm," replied the other.
My phone went off. It was the paper. "Dexter, I want 1000 words on why everyone's so happy at the moment. I know you're the man. Deadline is close of play tomorrow. And don't forget that workshop on engaging with the paper's online community on Thursday."
One of the girls came over to me. "I know you! Derek, it's me, Oulu. Franchester-Hellcombe. Wired recently called me 'London's most communitennected digital duchess!' We met the other week."
"Oh hi," I managed, dispirited. "How are you?"
"Come and meet my beau! He's riding that giraffe over there. He's a developer. He's building this interface that allows animals to talk to humans. ROFL! Let's go and try it out!"
I said I had a date. I did. It was with a woman I'd met online. My daughter forced me. We enjoyed a reasonable dinner, though everything was confusingly served on small plates. She was pretty and the conversation was flowing. After a few glasses of chilled Pouilly-Fumé I even thought I might like her.
Then her phone started ringing. After two long, evidently emotional conversations she returned, apologetic. "My daughter's just had a baby and thinks her husband's having an affair." Breathless, she added: "and my son can't secure seed funding for his new app that allows us to talk to our pets. Now where were we Daniel?"
It all sank in. I exhaled loudly, fell forward and smashed my head down on the table with such force that my dessert plate shattered, flinging panna cotta all over my date's dress. I looked up to see that her eyes were filled with pure horror.
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