The ideas that got away

I came to the end of a notepad this week. Filled mostly with expired to-do lists, there was little worth keeping. Of some interest however (to me, at least), were my original brain-splurges for New Escapologist Issue Three. Interestingly, hardly any of these features made it into the final publication.


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Boring website update

The hoary, old WordPress.com version of the New Escapologist website has finally been expunged from the face of the Internet. It had been causing mischief for some time, mysteriously ranking higher in Google than the proper website, despite having inferior metadata and not being updated in almost a year.

The reason I kept it alive for so long was the forty people who continued to subscribe to it via RSS. Despite a few promptings they never moved their subscription over to the new one. I’d made a sticky post at the old site indicating that it was indeed a retired website but nobody seemed to notice this either. Today, my girlfriend’s dad called to say he was having trouble subscribing to the magazine. Of course, he was using the old and decrepit version of the website after searching for it in Google. Embarrassed, I finally deleted it once and for all.

It felt strange to erase an entire website (with 47 posts) even though I knew everything was reproduced and maintained here in the real site.

So anyway, if you’re one of the RSS subscribers to the old website and you’re somehow reading this post, do resubscribe to the proper site today. Rub our words in your eyes and rejoice.

50 ways to demean yourself

The key to surviving on the income of a part-time job is in minimising your overheads and learning to live within your means.

You should also indulge in the luxuries denied to the greying full-timer. Stay in bed until 10am. Have a leisurely breakfast with friends or the radio. Enjoy your hobbies. Spend extra time in the library and the pub.

A list of fifty side businesses in yesterday’s Guardian, however, doesn’t advocate either of these things. Instead, it suggests filling your non-work time with side business. This is a good idea if you want to wean yourself off part-time work and if your side business is likely to lead to full-time self-employment by developing relevant skills. The fifty suggestions in the Guardian, however, are astonishingly unambitious capers that will serve only to encroach on your leisure time for few meager quid:

– Some of them (car-boot sales, eBay campaigns and garage sales) rely on converting existing assets into money. This is not business. At best, it is liquidation. Even if your goal is to declutter rather than make money, selling your stuff is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

– Selling your spare time to do other people’s admin work (by becoming a virtual assistant, selling your time via sliversoftime.com or volunteering for data entry or IT troubleshooting) is so soul-destroying and a submission to white-collar work, you’d be better off sending out CVs for a legitimate admin job.

– Other suggestions woefully underestimate the amount of time, effort and skills go into them. Web design, wedding planning and catering are best left to web designers, wedding planners and caterers. These are not sidelines: they are career changes.

– Others are staggeringly juvenile: babysitting, dog-walking and scrapbook making. Teenagers have enough problems as it is without adults encroaching on their limited employment options.

– Some are amazingly parasitic or demeaning. Buying and selling lost airport luggage? Renting out your possessions? Becoming an ‘ugly model’? Why not just go out and throttle a few pigeons in Leicester Square for meat?

I think the intention of these pocketmoney projects is to help ‘fill the gap’ between a part-time situation and taking up a proper business. There may be desparate situations which call for such measures and they are certainly better solutions than taking a loan from a scumbag at Ocean Finance. Generally though, they are terribly undignified and a waste of time at best. When you’re walking other people’s dogs for a few quid, you could be learning the ropes in a choice industry, building up a body of clients or just having a pleasant time.

Handkerchiefs: a parable

I’ve started using cotton handkerchiefs instead of disposable Kleenex-style tissues. It is much better.

When I see people blowing their noses on tattered bits of pocket-worn tissue paper, I remember a boy at our school who was cruelly nicknamed ‘Snot Rag’. Poor Snotters suffered from hay-fever all year round and was consistently in a state of sneezing and sniffling. His nickname wasn’t the result of his overactive immune system, but the fact that he never seemed equipped to deal with his problem. Whenever he sneezed, he would nervously fumble around in his trouser pockets, eventually retrieving a piece of spent and impossibly tattered toilet paper.

Snot Rag’s problem would have been more debonairly dealt with if he’d subscribed to reusable cotton handkerchiefs instead.

Not only are cotton handkerchiefs softer on the nose, more robust, better for the environment, feel nicer in the pocket and far more stylish than their disposable counterparts, they provide an economic parable:

Invest in long-term solutions instead of cheap, pragmatic ones.

By finding a long-term solution (handkerchiefs) to a long-term problem (the sniffles), I am able to eliminate one of my overheads (Kleenex tissues). Never again will tissues appear on my grocery list.

This can be applied elsewhere in life. Instead of pragmatically solving problems as you go along, look for sustainable ways to solve problems once and for all.

Instead of buying cheapo-nasty shoes every few months, just buy one highly-durable pair and have them re-heeled occasionally. Instead of accumulating a wardrobe full of cheap clothes, invest in an indestructible bespoke suit. The same thing applies to investments: Alvin Hall recommends making long-term investments rather than smaller, riskier attempts to get rich quick.

I’ve written before that employment is pragmatism. This is the ultimate application of the handkerchief parable. A short-term solution to a long-term problem, the conventional dayjob is the Kleenex tissue to the wise person’s handkerchief. Instead of labouring as a desk-jockey in order to generate monthly income, teach yourself about investment portfolios, profitable vocations and other more sustainable solutions to the money problem.

On the subject of the handkerchief itself, you may be wondering about the hygiene of this practice. Does one end up with a pocket full of snot? It’s a fair question. So far, I’ve found that upon second usage, there is no evidence that the handkerchief ever been used at all. The snot must absorb and then evaporate or something. I doubt this would be the case if I had a cold, but for now I’ve found handkerchiefing to be a very pleasant form of snot extraction.

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