My Home: Danny Wallace, comedian
The comedian runs his own country from his London flat. But it's a tight squeeze accommodating his subjects
Wednesday 19 October 2005
I've lived here for about five years, arriving from Harrow-on-the-Hill. I had lots of friends in the East End but had always assumed that it was 1,000 miles away. It's actually a very short journey from central London, Tube-wise, and my flat is a seven-minute walk from the Tube station.
When I first moved here, I joined the Bow Quarter website where residents can post messages to each other. I was alarmed to find that most of the messages took the form of warnings about local areas to avoid after dark and unpleasant anecdotes relating to muggings. After that, I became aware of figures lurking in the shadows during the walk home, which now felt a lot longer than seven minutes, and noticed the look of relief on the faces of fellow commuters as they lurched through the gates into the safety of the Bow Quarter. I don't look at the website any more. But the area has undeniably beautiful parts. Then you go round the next corner and it's horrid.
As the ruler of my own country, which is contained within the walls of the flat, I wear my uniform on special occasions. It was made for me by Dege & Skinner, who also produced vestments for the Sultan of Brunei. I used to fly a flag from the window but some of my over-enthusiastic subjects became a nuisance and I had to take it down. The flat itself is open plan, with a galleried bedroom above, reached by a spiral staircase. The gallery forms a useful raised podium from which to address my subjects, who can form a riotous crowd below in the sitting room. There is space for about 60 of them at a time, but as there are now more than 50,000, I will need to look for somewhere bigger quite soon.
The sitting room is made up of two distinct areas; the area at the far end is where I conduct most of my personal life, and is ordered and minimalist. There is a row of DVDs along the window sill, the size of which confounds me. Two years ago I had four films and now I own more than 200. I bought most of them for research purposes, and I conduct my research on a large and comfy brown leather sofa. The other end, nearer the kitchen, is my work area, containing my desk. I spend a lot of time reading and answering e-mails generated by the cult that I formed, "Join Me", where everyone is obliged to carry out a "random act of kindness" every Friday - such as putting money into a vending machine and leaving the packet of crisps for the next person.
My desk becomes cluttered very easily and I have amassed a collection of thousands of passport photographs, sent to me by the Join Me members, kept in boxes by my desk, awaiting reply. I have hundreds of them covering the walls of the hallway. In the past I worried that a burglar would form a very dodgy impression of me at the sight of my pervy-looking wallpaper, but then it occurred to me that I don't care what he thinks, since he's burgling my flat!
The windows here are about 15ft high and, being on the fourth floor, I have a fantastic view, overlooking the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf. It's particularly beautiful at night when the panorama is imbued with an orange industrial glow. I love lying in bed, comforted by the sounds of the trains chugging gently by and pondering the marvellous cityscape before me. In the branches of the tall plane trees outside lives a tiny fluffy owl who peeps in at me and makes weird noises.
My dining table is a proper Sixties piece, from my family home, made of white Formica with metal legs. There's a photo of me as a baby in my carry-cot on this table, somewhere. The shaggy rug on the floor is also genuine vintage Sixties, and I had it in my playroom when I was little. I don't buy much for the flat, as there's not much room to put anything, but we do go down to Spitalfields market at weekends, where we sometimes buy bits of art.
On the wall in the sitting room is a giant, life-sized cut-out of me that I was given after a publicity thing in America. I got quite scared the first time I saw it at night. People must think I'm an egomaniac, but it's only here because I've got nowhere else to hide it.
I'm considering moving on soon, and Islington is tempting. I just fancy it, somehow. Islington knows it's cool and I like the buzz. It would be good to be able to take friends for a pint somewhere that isn't grotty. Round here, good drinking spots are hard to come by; it's all old men's boxing pubs - atmospheric but depressing. This is the only fully double-glazed country in the world, with 100 per cent employment and a 0 per cent crime rate, the first physical territory of my expanding empire. I'm not sure about the legalities of moving it to Islington.
'How to Start Your Own Country' is available on DVD from 24 October, £19.99
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