Imagine you’ve just endured a few years working in the smog conditions of early-20th century London (and these pea-soupers continued well after the war too). Every morning upon waking you toss your alarm clock across the room, rise up to sit on the edge of your bed and begin coughing up phlegm. You shuffle across the linoleum floor into the shower and let the hot water take some of the edge off your early start. A glass of orange juice and a freshly-brewed coffee temporarily clear your persistent headache and you dress for work.
Closing the heavy wooden front door you step onto the street and breath in the damp air. Is it mist or smog that softens the distant buildings? It’s time to trudge to the Underground station and jostle through the crowd onto a rickety carriage, swapping bacteria with the other passengers.
By lunchtime you scurry out because today you’ve got an appointment with the GP and the boss has let you take an afternoon’s leave. Sitting in the waiting room you see crying babies softly bounced on their mother’s knees, and an old couple patiently staring at the various information leaflets pinned onto the noticeboard by reception. The nurse calls you in and after fifteen minute’s tapping your chest, talking your blood pressure and shining a light into your ears and mouth the doctor gives his advice.
“You’ve got a developing case of Chodular Fever. It’s not far gone but I imagine you’ve already had trouble sleeping, frequent bouts of irritability, and unexplained periods of low mental function” he says.
Yes, you recognise the symptoms. You thought this was just a normal part of ageing in the modern world. The doctor pulls his notepad across and begins scribbling.
“I’m going to recommend you take a Euro Jaunt”
Two weeks ago I was in Kiev with a pair of travel buddies (one of whom is on my latest podcast here). It was a blustery day so we had our jackets zipped and woolly hats on. As we walked through a park in front of Shevchenko university a thought occurred to me.
This is so pleasant. So much so that I could imagine a doctor recommending it as a convalescence holiday. We stopped at one of the many specialist coffee carts and ordered cappuccinos and while I made small talk with the young barista as he told me he’d recently been to New York, I let my eyes wander to the long rows of tall trees covered in yellow autumn leaves. My friend was at another coffee cart a few metres away chatting to a young university student he’d just stopped.
We took our coffees and walked back through the park to a small square full of retired old men in flat caps playing chess on specially-installed tables, their dozens of quiet conversations melding together into a low buzz. It’s nice to see the elderly getting out of their apartments and socialising around a shared passion. It was almost 3pm so I was able to pick a girl out of the rush streaming from the nearby Metro station to the university, hurrying to lectures. I don’t remember if I got her number.
I checked my pedometer and I’d already logged 8km walking and it would reach 15km by the end of the evening by which time the three of us were sitting in a quaint restaurant that looked like a 1960s Parisian cafe, working our way through bowls of the local borsch soup. We raised a toast to the Good Life.
It reminded me of the advice doctors would give back in the late-19th century onwards to city dwellers who were getting run down by city life. Britain had a whole network of spa towns, often in the mountains or by the seaside, where you could book in for a fortnight and let the worries of life fall from your shoulders. Fresh sea air, sunshine, walking, resting, sleeping, and of course sitting sipping coffee with friends as you watch the world go by. Perhaps meet a few like-minded souls.
As my mind turned I thought back to the hit Nintendo DS game in Japan, Brain Training. The (psuedo)-scientific rationale trumpeted in the marketing was that solving the puzzles in the game would keep your brain ticking over and maintain cognitive function longer into old age. So the games activities were all chopped down into short exercises that could be rattled off on the train to work or short coffee breaks. The popular London equivalent was to take a sudoko or logic problems workbook with you on your commute.
Daygame is convalescence and brain-training combined.
What does my typical Euro Jaunt involve? The first thing is to get out of dodge and roll up into a new foreign town full of it’s own local quirks and charms. Almost always it’s got fresher air than London and a slower pace. There’s none of the crush that the average working Londoner endures every weekday. Once I’ve set my bags down and settled into a daily pattern it goes like this:
- Wake up whenever I damn well please, after my body has decided it’s fully rested. I suffer none of the persistent sleep deprivation that is the base state for a city worker.
- Open my front door and I’m immediately in the mix without any kind of commute. I walk where I want under my own steam without contending with ticket machines, virus-bearing commuters, or delayed trains.
- Roll up at my favourite cafe a few hundred metres away and work my way through a (very) late breakfast of orange juice, coffee and pasta. At some point my friends arrive and our morning routines converge.
- Once we feel like it, take a walk. Chat, enjoy the atmosphere of the streets, and pick off girls as and when we feel like it.
Freedom has become almost tangible, like every breath of air and every step forwards. It’s all so pleasant. By the end of the day we’ve been in the open air for hours, walked many kilometres, and done an extended cardio routine without even noticing. Often my feet will ache a little and it’s not until I check my pedometer that I realise I’ve done another urban hike. This is the kind of patient low-intensity exercise that men will drive into the countryside once a month to get. My legs feel supple and strong. My posture is good because the whole time I’ve been aware of it. It’s the opposite of being chained to a cubicle in an artificially-lit office with the nearest window ten metres away.
That’s the convalescence but how about the brain training?
Imagine doing twenty engaging and fascinating crossword puzzles over a few hours. That’s how your brain is working when doing twenty sets with girls you are trying to fuck. You’re trying to calibrate her reactions, engage your creative juices, and logically work through a model. And then in the time between sets you can comfortably flip into a meditative state of mindfullness. Twenty times over a few hours.
After a fun but disciplined session of daygame you can feel drained. By 8pm when you raise the glass of your first beer to toast your friends you’ve earned it. Your brain wants rest. I sometimes return from a Euro Jaunt feeling like a boxer the day before a big fight. My body and mind are dialled in and respond with lightning speed. Gone is any trace of slothfulness, inertia or lack of focus.
It’s a common joke that carrying your shopping home is “training”. Walking up the stairs because the escalator is broken is “training”. We laugh because it’s true. We all know that the lifestyle of convenience is a fools errand. A man must engage his body and his mind on a daily basis to remain alert and alive.
Daygame is not about lying on the sofa right-swiping Tinder. It’s not about pouring toxins down your throat in a noisy smoky bar full of braying asses. It’s not about outlasting the other chodes at 5am in a nightclub.
Once you’ve overcome the anxiety of it, daygame is an intrinsically healthy activity. Just as small children don’t realise that running around playing tag is training their lungs, muscles, coordination and alertness it’s easy for us daygamers to forget that no matter what the day returns us in phone numbers or dates, it always gives us convalescence and brain training.