Who is tom ditto, p.1
Who is Tom Ditto?, p.1Danny Wallace
About the Book
About the Author
Also by Danny Wallace
Extract from Charlotte Street
About the Book
Tom got a note from his girlfriend. She says she hasn’t left him. But that she’s gone.
But where the hell is she? When is she coming back?
And what is Tom supposed to do in the meantime?
In his quest for answers, Tom stumbles across an eccentric group of people with a highly-addictive hobby. He’s also certain he’s being followed by an equally bizarre girl.
With each new clue to Hayley’s whereabouts, Tom is forced to question whether he really knows his girlfriend at all. Because who is Hayley?
And who, for that matter, is TOM DITTO?
About the Author
Danny Wallace is a Sunday Times-bestselling author who lives in London. He has written six non-fiction books including Yes Man which became a hugely successful film with Jim Carrey in the lead role. In 2012 Danny’s first novel Charlotte Street was published to great acclaim and has been described as ‘brilliantly funny’ by the Daily Mail and one of the year’s ‘coolest must-reads’ by Stylist.
Danny has a weekly column in ShortList magazine and in 2012 was the host of the ‘Xfm Breakfast Show with Danny Wallace’, for which he won three Sony Radio Academy Awards and Arqiva Radio Presenter of the Year.
Find out more at: www.dannywallace.com
Also by Danny Wallace
What Not To Do (And How To Do It)
Awkward Situations for Men
Friends Like These
Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe
Random Acts of Kindness
Are You Dave Gorman?
To Wag and Will
Ezra Cockroft, 1982
The evening of June the 12th was unusual for many reasons in the end, of course, but it was unusual mostly because the evening of June the 12th was the evening my girlfriend did not leave me.
I have not left you. But I am gone.
Please just carry on as normal.
I stared at the words and sat down in my chair.
I am not saying I’m not a trusting man.
I’m not saying you can’t trust most people. But usually, when you meet someone you can trust, you know. It was as obvious with Hayley as her big blue eyes; as the curl of hair she’d keep tucking behind her ear.
Here, her – Hayley – this was a girl you could trust.
The second she gave me her number, I did the thing I always do when someone gives me their number.
I looked at it, then said, ‘Wow, no way! That’s my favourite number!’
It’s a pretty good thing to say.
All you have to do after saying something like that is sit back and wait for the laughter to subside. It’s a banker. A deal-sealer. If that doesn’t get a laugh, you’re doing it wrong, and maybe you should start questioning how you do everything else in your life, too, because maybe you can’t even make a sandwich properly.
And now I sat in my flat, in the dark, on the chair in the corner, dialling that number again and again and again and again and again.
It was fast becoming not-my-favourite.
A strange thing, being left, while being assured you have not been left.
What are you supposed to do with that? Just switch to solo behaviour? Just think ‘fine’ and start buying meals-for-one?
Four hours had passed and I was still sitting in that chair. Jangling my keys. Listening to the dogs outside. Dusk had turned to dark. Confusion had turned to anger and settled, lump-thick, deep in my stomach.
Where had Hayley gone?
I guess that was my main question.
But also, and obviously … why? How long would she be gone? Was she gone gone? Why didn’t I know where she’d gone? Why didn’t I know she was going? Why was she saying she was going but not gone?
Almost two years we’d been together. We had responsibilities. We had direct debits.
I’d left messages, of course, tonight. I sounded confused on the first one. Furious on the second. Worried on the third and fourth. Desperate as I hit the fifth, and sixth, and then silent seventh.
Where are you?
Where have you gone?
Hayley, call me.
I’d made calls to other people, too. Lots of calls.
Her best friend, Fran. Her brother, her sister …
‘Annie, it’s Tom,’ I’d said, head down, shoulders hunched, headache starting, standing by the window, one hand against the wall, phone pressed too hard against my cheek, because this feeling, these nerves, they had to go somewhere. It was loud where Annie was. Restaurant? Maybe drinks? ‘Is Hayley with you?’
‘No, Tom …’
She knew. She knew she’d gone. It was right there slotted between the pause and where a ‘What do you mean?’ should have been. So yes, her sister knew she’d gone, but worse – she’d known she was going.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Hayley wanted it to be a surprise for everyone.’
‘A … surprise?’
She sounded distant. What did that mean? Was Annie preparing to say goodbye to me? Backing off? Fading me out of her life? That was bad. The ex you can keep hold of for a while, they owe it to you while you talk things out, they’re still in your life, but the friends, the family … they start drifting away the second they see the iceberg from the ship.
‘Well, it’s definitely a surprise,’ I said, loudly, angrily, trying to keep her engaged, stop her from jumping overboard. ‘What does it mean, Annie? Where is she?’
‘She’s not left you, Tom, if that’s what you’re worried about.’
If that’s what I’m worried about?!
But I had to
‘No, that’s what she says, Annie, and yet she has left me, if you look at the basic fucking facts.’
My voice was trembling now.
‘Don’t swear at me.’
‘Where is she?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Don’t swear at me, and I don’t know, Tom, honestly. Did she not tell you any of this?’
The backs of my eyes sparked with rage.
‘Do you think I’d be phoning you up if—’
‘Okay, Tom, sorry, yes—’
‘Because this is quite a fucking shock to the system, and—’
‘Don’t swear at me, and look—’
‘Annie, she’s disappeared and you know where she is, don’t you?’
‘Take care, Tom.’
And there, in those final words, my biggest clue.
Take care, Tom.
She was gone, wasn’t she?
‘You know what’d be a good name for a band?’ asked Pippy, spinning in her chair. ‘REM.’
‘I think there’s already been a band called REM,’ I said, barely looking up, eyes sallow, skin dulled. ‘The world-famous band REM.’
It was 4am and I was at my desk.
‘I’m just saying, REM would be a good name for a band,’ she replied. ‘Not asking for you to recite all of musical history. I’m just saying, REM would be a good name if you were starting a band.’
‘It would be a terrible name,’ I said. ‘Because there is already a band called REM, and by that I once more mean the world-famous band REM.’
‘Because it makes you think of music, doesn’t it, saying REM?’ she said, oblivious.
‘It makes you think of the music of REM, yes.’
‘Bingo,’ she said. ‘So I say REM, you think music.’
‘Yes, I think REM music.’
‘Point proved, case closed, many thank yous and happy returns.’
Jesus, I wished Pippy sat somewhere else. Like maybe Belgium. She was nice enough – very short, heavy fringe, jumper with a dog on it – but such an unlikely producer for London’s #3 urban R&B station. You’d see her walking along the corridor with Bark and Lyricis like she was their care worker. She’s a little older than me, but acts a little younger. Wants to stay ‘relevant’.
‘You look knackered, mate, are you ill?’ she said. ‘Just sayin’.’
Pippy liked saying something insulting and then saying ‘just saying’ because she felt this meant she could be as insulting as she wanted without other people being able to take offence, because after all, she was ‘just saying’ it.
‘I didn’t sleep,’ I said, reading and re-reading the first line of my script again …
It’s Wednesday June 13th, I’m Tom Adoyo with the stories you’re waking up to …
‘Oh, you need to sleep,’ she said, like this was advice straight from the Dalai Lama. ‘Hashtag “earlies”, mate.’
I was covering for Kate Mann on Talk London’s London Calling with Leslie James all week. The breakfast show.
Two questions everyone wants to know the second they know you have a job like mine. The first is ‘what time do you have to get up?’. The second is ‘what time do you have to go to bed?’ The answer to both is ‘too early’, but here you go:
I aim for bed at 9pm. I Sky+ the things I’ll miss. I understand and accept this means I’ll always be slightly behind the national cultural conversation. I’m up at 3.45, on the bus at 4.10, in by 4.50, apart from days like today when being with Pippy at four in the morning is better than lying in the dark listening to the foxes mate outside.
Then I gather the news (by which I mean look at what the person before me has done), I plan ahead (by which I mean work out how to slightly change each bulletin to make it sound like I’m working), I check Burli for audio, then the wires – PA, Sky, Reuters – and then see if there’s anything in from the police.
(And those, by the way, are the releases that need the most rewriting. Why do the police speak in their own weird language? ‘The suspect was seen proceeding in a westerly direction.’ No one speaks like that. Not a single functioning human being on God’s green earth. There was that pop star they caught on the A6 recently. ‘At oh twenty-two hours a suspect was spotted driving erratically and upon bringing the vehicle to a stop the strong aroma of intoxicants from the forty-six-year-old male driver was immediately detected.’ Dude – you stopped a drunk driver. You’re not writing a perfume ad.)
I write my copy, I read my copy, I’m in studio at six and done by twelve.
I’m well aware this is pretend news. Very few people are doing the actual heavy lifting. I just help spread the word. I’m just part of this mass illusion. But at least I write my own stuff. Or at least rewrite other people’s stuff myself. Some newsreaders just read news. They have writers, they swan in and swan out. They’re ‘show and go’. But that’s when mistakes happen. If you write it, you know it. You know your own voice, how you say things, just when to pause, just what to stress.
Talking of stress …
‘You’re never going to up your game if you come in sleepless,’ said Pippy. ‘Just sayin’.’
Christ, I thought, if you’re just saying it, just say it. Don’t say it and then say you’ve just said it. That’s not just saying it. Just saying it is just saying it.
‘Yeah, well, there’s a lot going on right now,’ I tried, and immediately I ached for home. I’m not one of those people who hate my job. I like it a lot. Though sometimes I worry I like it because I find it easy. That said, what the hell was I doing here? Four am in a strip-lit office with bright blue chairs and grey, grey walls waiting to start my shift in a city that’s still an acquaintance and, despite a woman called Pippy, completely alone.
I wanted to talk about it, of course I did. But there’d only been Hayley and Hayley’s friends since I moved to London. Everyone in Bristol – my old boss, my dentist, my best mate Calum – told me it was a mistake. It was too soon; I hardly knew this girl. Only dad remained quiet. I’d phoned him late one night – it was about lunchtime for him, I could hear his wife and her kids in the background, I think they were on their way somewhere – and he’d told me to do what I felt was right. That he was sorry he wasn’t there to meet her.
But before I knew it I’d found myself a job, moved my stuff to Stoke Newington, and now here I was. So no: I hadn’t slept. And no: I didn’t want to raise this with my friends back home, because maybe it was just a blip, maybe couples do stuff like this all the time and maybe I didn’t want to look like the total tool they’d all quietly predicted I’d end up looking.
All I’d done last night was make it from the chair to the bed and just lie there. Stunned. Running through the past few weeks, trying to work out what had happened, what had been the catalyst, what had made her go.
‘How’s Hayley?’ asked Pippy, maybe sensing something. She’s one of those people who fancies herself mildly psychic and I’d made it my job to disprove this whenever possible.
‘Hayley is wonderful,’ I said, and then stood up to be somewhere else.
‘Is she still working at Zara?’ she asked, as I was halfway out the door, and I stopped.
Because that was a very good point.
‘It’s Wednesday June 13th, I’m Tom Adoyo with the stories you’re waking up to … Four arrests after man’s body found … Teacher speaks out about classroom birth … and in sport, it’s all change at Chelsea …’
London Calling with Leslie James. 6 ’til 10 in the capital and beyond. Some people tune in online from the States, or Singapore, or Australia, for a little slice of home and the opinions of Leslie James. Let’s just say he’s an acquired taste. Cabbies love him – they say he’s one of them. Tells it like it is.
Kate – his regular news presenter,
I checked my emails.
* * *
From: MAUREEN THOMAS
If you are UNABLE to place your pieces of paper in the GREEN RECYCLING BIN we will take these bins away from you as you are NOT FIT to use them. I am SERIOUS.
* * *
So one day I’ll be on Talk London, the next evening attempting to subtly change my accent so I fit in with Bark and Lyricis on Vibe.
SoundHaus takes up two-thirds of a strikingly bland building just off High Holborn, the third-biggest commercial radio outfit in Britain, home to Talk London, Vibe, Jazz Bar, Rocket!, Harmony, and one or two others. And I’ll tell you what – not one of those stations I’d listen to voluntarily. No way. Are you mental? They’re stations you hear as you drive home in an illegal minicab. And they’re all struggling to keep up with the stations of Global or Bauer … except maybe Talk London and its stand-out star, Hitachi Commercial Radio Talk Presenter of the Year (1 million TSA plus) Leslie James.
Leslie James is not a man who will apologise for his opinions.
Here are some opinions Leslie James will not apologise for.
‘Fox-hunting. Bad, yes, but I see both sides of the argument. And I make no apology for that, and I say that sincerely.’
Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes