Just Saying No Restored My Faith in Humanity

A chance meeting with an ex-diamond miner who'd had his face blown off and a dodgy experiment where I became a "no-man" restored my faith and destroyed my depression...
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A chance meeting with an ex-diamond miner who'd had his face blown off and a dodgy experiment where I became a "no-man" restored my faith and destroyed my depression...


“I just had to knock on your door and tell you how much I love that heart,” the complete stranger said to me as I opened the front door with a blank stare on my face.

It was Friday afternoon, I’d just sat through almost ninety minutes of Jeremy Kyle and my temper, contempt for humanity and hunger were frayed. I wasn’t in the mood for silly beggars and alcoholics. At first I just thought he was the milkman or the Avon, but it turns out that Ron, a born again Christian, was a lot more than that, he was a sign.

I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in Buddha, I don’t even fully believe in Emily Sandé, mainly because it seems like a massive jump to believe that there’s a benevolent being floating around the sky letting things like Katie Price’s fourth child and Kim Kardashian ruining Kanye West happen. It just doesn’t seem plausible enough to be real. The same goes for fate and destiny; seems like complete nincompoopery when faced with a life full of bills and other horrible things. At heart I’m a cynical and heartbroken idiot who frequently sees a vast nothing stretching out before him.

That was the initial impetus to set myself the same challenge that Danny Wallace set himself when he was in a similar situation; to say yes to more things. To take more risks and be more reckless and totally ignore things like ‘school nights’ and ‘failed direct debit charges.’ I’d just come out a major relationship and been dropped to earth with a massive bump and a passing ‘you’re holding me back dude, sorry.’

I’d recently gave up wanking for a week and almost gone nuts due to mutinous testicles and sexy thoughts about my best friend so when I was looking for a new challenge to keep my thoughts away from missing a simple handhold and the realisation that my life was so colossally shit, I was given the book ‘Yes Man’ by Danny Wallace because it was an “uplifting read and that it would probably stop you prattling on about how rubbish your life is.”

Apparently there is a limit that you can talk about how your life before people start to get incredibly irritated, which was fine really, I’d had a good six weeks and drank more than my share of tear infused vodka and was ready to start living a life that wasn’t ran by how many Mars cake bars I can fit into my mouth.


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In it, Wallace is stuck in a rut and he finds him losing his friends, not because they’re weeping bellends, but because he became slightly reclusive after a break up. But eventually, he started saying Yes to everything that came his way and quickly found a renewed vigour of life. And this was what I wanted. I wasn’t enjoying thinking about whether he was missing me or whether he was as sad, or intermittently bursting into tears over the most banal of things (mainly because he wasn’t). So I decided to say Yes to every single opportunity that came my way.

At first, my initial thoughts were that I would just be told to do random things by random people and they would prove to be hilarious, embarrassing or a special mixture of the both; like when you keg someone and they’ve got genitals like Barbie’s Ken. Some of them were, for instance one misanthrope got me to scream ‘Merry Christmas’ outside in the dead of night, which was embarrassing for me as I got a swift ‘STFU’ for my troubles from my neighbours. Whereas another directed me to taste my own spaff on Thursday, something which I had never done before. And now that I’ve done it probably won’t be doing it again; eating fishy phlegm is not for me. I don’t know why Rod Stewart liked doing it so much. And regardless of what Grazia may tell us about the calorific content of sperm, unfortunately it doesn’t taste as nice as a good burger.

It was all pretty genial and as boring as Anne Diamond’s knicker line so far. If this was a life where you say yes to everything, then maybe it’s wasn’t just saying yes that I need to do, I might need a complete life transplant and bulk up to the size of mini-Hulk, paint myself orange and use phrases like ‘on it like a car bonnet’, wear t-shirts that say ‘GEEK’ on them and think that Topman is the very pinnacle of fashion. Which living very close to Newcastle is very easy to do.

Sometimes it didn’t go to plan and on Tuesday I should’ve gave my number to a fine fellow on the Metro back from Cloud Atlas but felt into the same routine of ‘what will people think?’ or ‘what happens if he’s not gay?’ I didn’t know whether I was masculine enough to pull off a black eye. Eventually, after 30 minutes I caved in and bottled the whole thing, even though it went against the whole point of the week and will probably be one of my biggest regrets. At least until I can’t decide what flavour Pop Tarts to buy and get shooed along by a Gran with a shopping trolley. Not giving him my number didn’t feel good at all, but it did push my resolve to do everything else that was asked of me.


Cue more silly things, like knocking next door to see whether my elderly neighbours need any shopping done for them (they didn’t and seemed very perplexed that I would ask which I’m chalking up as society’s problem, not mine) and spent a whole day not wearing underwear which was great. Everyone should do that. It makes wearing jogging bottoms incredibly exciting at times. Although you do have to be extra vigilant when you wipe.

I was partially expecting some amazing and life changing revelations with each passing day until I finally graduated from the Week Of Yes University on Friday and stepped into a new life with a whole new outlook, but as Friday it seemed like the whole thing was going to be a massive bust and a monumental waste of time. It had been fun, and a challenge, but I didn’t feel any different. I still felt acutely sad and would frequently have to force myself to think of other, happier things, like a kitten riding on the back of a unicorn. Or M&Ms. What made feeling sad even worse was knowing that I would have to make up some juicy stuff for this article that I had promised to write and I wasn’t up to judging whether saving a Greggs from burning down could be convincing.

And that was when I met Ron.

My mum thought it would be a brilliant idea to buy a wicker heart and hang it on the front door; not because she believes in love, she’s been married to my dad for too long to even believe a construct like that exists anymore, but because it’s part of her kitsch, handmade crafty phase. It’s pretty plain and uninspiring. There’s literally nothing remotely newsworthy about it. If it were to disappear, you wouldn’t notice. It’s like one of the ancillary characters in Eastenders. When they leave you just kind of shrug and have another ginger snap. The heart has been hanging there for months and no one has even paid it a passing glance or remark, so as I opened up the door and was dragged into a conversation just about it, I was beyond perturbed.

I’m just like anyone else, my immediate thought was that Ron was going to strangle me and then steal my teeth. That’s just a natural thought process. He was wearing leather gloves and everything. It didn’t matter that it was really cold that day, he was going to murder me and then steal my organs perhaps.

But “I just had to knock on your door and tell you how much I love that heart” happened instead of him pressing against my windpipe. Which was weirder, if anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if he strangled me, but I was surprised that he said this.

“Is it a message that you like to spread to everyone?”

I had to look to see whether a note said ‘Ring 07446825012 for hot blowjobz’, and there wasn’t.

“What do you mean? I replied, with a furrowed brow.

“The message of love to everyone.”

I actually couldn’t help but laugh in this poor man’s face. There was no way that anyone in my house spreads a message of love to everyone.

“I dunno, I think my mum just likes it.”

“It’s still a nice thing to see when you’re walking down the street,” Ron said. He then went on to tell me all about his life; how he had been a diamond miner before getting blown up and needing re-constructive surgery on his face, how he had lived in Papua New Guinea for a while, how he had been married for 44 years before his wife died, how he was a born again Christian, and how he was dyslexic but really wanted to write a book about his travels. To be honest, I should said that I would be a ghost writer, and it could’ve been my one way ticket to being the Adele of literature, but I was still more concerned with not getting strangled and having someone hide my copy of Hole Milk 2 from my mam.

At the same time he was a fascinating and dangerous man. I didn’t know what was going to happen but I was mapping out where my phone was and where the best place to kick him would be if he lunged towards me. He had a sadness in his eyes; presumably from the death of his wife, or maybe he’d just ran out of toilet paper, but talking to Ron was like talking to someone at the end about their entire life and whether they had regretted anything. It was a very sobering experience hearing about all these brilliant things he had done while I was stood in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt lamenting because I’d been hard done to by one person. I felt foolish and ashamed to be worrying about trivial things when Ron had been blown into pieces and had to be put back together. And then he said something quite impromptu and with watery eyes (his own I think).

“Don’t ever regret anything.”

The next few seconds were longer than any that have come after a silent but deadly fart, waiting for someone to smell it. Although I was talking to Ron, he had seemed to be speaking directly to me, about me. His words were like a message straight from something more benevolent, through him, directly to me. Feeling intensely sad while a stranger talks to you about not worrying about small things because it’s the big things like love and happiness while you’re stood on your doorstep is a truly bizarre thing.

Since Ron’s wife had died, he had struggled to the see the point in life anymore; much like I had been, and he found it difficult to share his house with the memories of someone who he had known for close to half a century. Which anyone would. I’ve felt sad when I’ve had to throw away a Chinese that has been in the house overnight.

“You’ve just got to keep looking and you’ll find it,” I said as I remembered that you can just order another Chinese and applying this to wives.

“I like your vigor,” Ron said and stumbled towards me, arms open for a hug. I was too slow for him and he wrapped me up and pulled himself close to me. This was the first bit of intimacy that I’ve had for eight weeks, and even though it came from a stranger, it was nice. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and went on his way, almost as impromptu as he arrived, leaving me to think over what had actually happened in the past hour or so.

Perhaps I’m seeing something that wasn’t there, and Ron was actually so far off his face that he would make Gazza look like he’s a designated driver, but Ron’s random appearance at my front door did more than any self help book or well meaning ‘relationship expert’ could ever do: he made me feel like I wasn’t going through things by myself and that, although I’ve been at my very lowest, things do seem to get better, even if you might go through life not really feeling the same again.

Ron’s appearance and brief, yet heavily laden conversation is one of the most important things to happen to me in the past few weeks, and might not have happened had I taken inspiration from Danny Wallace. Why not try and say yes to everything for a week, maybe you’ll change your life like I have.