I Really Don’t Know What the Fuck I’m Doing, or How Utterly, Utterly Useless I Am, Part One

In my day to day life, when it comes to money or anything of a financial or administrative nature, I am horrifically, savagely impractical. Something happened yesterday that brought it all home. I’ll come to that in a moment.

I never pay my tax on time. I miss credit card payments. I forget to file invoices. I never check my bank statements. I’m always overdrawn. I sometimes leave direct debit payments set up long after I ought. I never check my change. When someone sends me a form to fill in – an accountant, say – I’ll procrastinate so instinctively and with such alacrity that suddenly I’m back at school and the accountant’s referring me to the letter of three months ago and the form she’s not yet received and I realise, and I know it’s true: I’m a fucking child. A simple child at that. An imbecile. Like the baby in The Wasp Factory with maggots in its brain but somehow all growed up.

Today I discovered that a relatively sizey sum of money (although naturally I don’t know exactly how much), which was donated to me on the back of something I wrote when I was pretending to be slightly deformed, never made it into my Paypal account. I knew this at the time – I was receiving the notification emails but not the money. I kept putting off calling Paypal because… well, because that’s what I do. I put it off until yesterday in fact – a total of 15 months later – pretty good going, even by my dismal standards. And what I found out yesterday was that because I’d changed some details of my Paypal account but not had them verified, the donations had been returned – after a month – to the donors.

I’m pleased at least that I wasn’t ripped off by Paypal. But I’m pissed off that, essentially, I was ripped off by myself.

Really, if I wasn’t over all that stuff, I would take myself outside and beat the bejesus out of myself.


I tell you, the only reason my debts aren’t sincerely much more overwhelming than they actually are, is because my mother is both generous and insistent, and I am weak and worthless. Thanks to the kindness of my mother then, I only owe a relatively small amount to the bank. But of course I owe another somewhat larger amount to my mother. Oh, the shame. We’re only talking a few grand though. Only. Jesus. And God knows what I owe the tax people, from whom – it looks increasingly likely – I am running away, yet again. In retrospect, I picked the perfect day to leave the country.

Speaking of leaving the country, there is another aspect of my personality, which I should – to give myself credit – recognise here.

I do get stuff done. Some stuff. I went to Italy, for example. I made a decision and I followed through on it, and lived there for four years.

I did do that.

However, not only did I fail to learn the language beforehand, and fail to arrange anything to do when I got there, but I also left lots of unpaid utilities bills and consequent ball-ache for the friends whose address I was using as a forwarder, friends who ended up having to contend with threatening bailiffs’ letters on my behalf.


See, I don’t mind my general unpreparedness. I think that makes for interesting times. But making your friends’ lives distinctly unpleasant simply because you’re too careless, too thoughtless and too plain selfish to pull your head out of your arse and sort shit out is unforgivable. (It wasn’t unforgivable in the end, because I have good friends, for whom I am grateful.)

I don’t think it’s just selfishness though. I don’t think it’s that simple. If you want to know the truth, I think I might be mentally ill. You know, slightly. My brain has some key hiatuses. (Haiti?)

An inability to relate to money is one. I mean, on any kind of useful level – I can spend it like a prince, obviously, but I can’t answer its questions. I can barely understand them half the time, I swear. It’s ironic really that I worked in finance, indirectly, for years, teaching foreign financiers in London how to speak English. I used to make them explain everything to me in layman-cum-simpleton’s terms. ‘Imagine I’m a complete idiot,’ I used to say. They would smile. And then they would explain reinsurance to me. Or they would tell me again why the credit crunch happened. And I swear, I would get it for a while – the pennies would fall from my eyes – but then they’d be snapped up by the disease in my head and confiscated, because I did not truly understand.

The other unfilled space in my brain concerns direction and, less succinctly, my lack of any definable sense of it. It takes me a full two days in a new house to remember where the lavatory is. I make stupid, unbelievably stupid mistakes when I’m out and about in London. Long-familiar routes for no better reason than lack of concentration and a complex mental illness are transformed into the urban equivalent of the giant maze in The Shining and I become convinced that THEY HAVE BEEN MOVING THE BUILDINGS. But they rarely have.

I’m not sure what this illness is exactly. I’m no doctor. But fuck it, if dyslexics can get away with it, I don’t see why I should be labelled ‘just a bit thick’.

So, two things. Money and direction. And general admin. Three things. Money, direction, general admin and science. Four things.

This is why I am the last person in the world who should be about to head off around the world visiting festivals. With no money.

Sixteen days to go.


About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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