An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 20.

I’m feeling pretty sickly today after some home-baked pumpkin seeds proved impossible to digest.

Collapsed on the Chaise, reading Catch 22 and watching the snow fall outside, I tried to recall the last time I was properly ill. Aside from a couple of self-induced hangovers, I’ve managed to avoid all malaise for over a year.

But how can this possibly be? I’d be frequently bed-ridden with fevers and tummy bugs when I had a job. Ah! When I had a job.

That’s the answer, obviously. Work is bad for your health. The stress, the misery, the forced early rises, the bad canteen food and the fact that you have to share an office and a morning bus with so many sneezing, sniffling, moaning, grey-faced lottery players must have something to do with it.

Lordy. It’s at times like this (and most other times, come to think of it) that I’m really glad to be a skiver.

Speaking of venerable slackers, we enjoyed a heady beer last night with our new friends Mark and Jez. We first met them at Expozine a few weeks ago. In the meantime, Jez had digested Issues One and Three of New Escapologist and told me how he’d put Jon Ransom’s instructional “How to Skive” article into practice. He’d used the ‘leak in the kitchen’ technique and the ‘stress-induced eczema’ dodge to great effect, winning a cosy week out of the office. (You’ll have to buy Issue Three if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Last week saw my 28th birthday. A good time was had, drinking fine malt whiskey with new Montreal friends. Birthday messages came in by email and Facebook: a change to my 27th birthday, what with my fondest friends being on the other side of the Atlantic this year.

(Actually, my last birthday was spent in Amsterdam and I don’t remember how people sent their birthday wishes last year – but usually I would see everyone in the flesh).

It was a particularly pleasant surprise to hear from my old schoolfriend, CJ who had resisted Facebook for a long time but has been persuaded at last. Was he the last man standing? Does the Social Network have everyone now?

CJ and I meet each other once a year for an ‘annual general meeting’, usually on Christmas Eve at a very bad and seedy casino in Dudley, England. We choose this location because it’s an entertaining and liminal experience to mix with so many lonely wastrels and bad fathers on Christmas Eve. The casino is probably our version of the cancer support groups in Fight Club. More significantly, CJ’s parents used to manage the casino when we were kids and would wisely forbid our ever going inside. This gave the place a unique allure, which evidently remained into adulthood.

At these Christmas Eve reunions, CJ and I tend to drink into the wee small hours and talk about how our lives have changed since the last Christmas Eve. It is amazing what a difference a year can make and we’ve both changed very much as people since we began this tradition. Our fortunes have changed several times, we’ve had different partners and different jobs and different ideas about stuff.

This year, however, I won’t be attending the AGM, since I’ll be in Montreal for Christmas. A stickler for tradition, CJ is outraged by this (and I must admit to being sad about breaking the chain myself), but I’m hardly going to spend £600 on flying home just for this. We’ll have to do a live Skype chat or something, with CJ in the casino and me at our apartment in Montreal. It would make for an interesting variation on the tradition.

A quick poke around CJ’s new Facebook profile reveals some big changes in his life, most pertinently that he and his girlfriend have had a baby son together. It feels weird to discover such an important fact via Facebook rather than the usual annual reunion, but I suppose it’s a sign of the times: my increasing estrangement from my origins and the prevalence of technology in our lives.

It was interesting from an Escapological perspective to see CJ’s status update, “every silver lining has a cloud inside it. I got the promotion into the office and up the career ladder, but commuting in and out of Birmingham city centre during both rush hours is a bastard!”

Facebook, Family Life and The Office have finally caught up with my oldest and stinkiest friend. He used to live a pretty vigourous life, working in pubs for Hell’s Angels and shagging women around the clock. He seems perfectly content with all this (the standard complaint of rush hour excepted) but it makes me wonder if any Escape Artist can have fun forever or if we’ll all eventually get sucked into the Bourgeois. Or maybe CJ just got someone pregnant and now he has to live up to the consequences. Haha. Loser.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 20.”

  1. Mark Wentworth says:

    I continue to resist Facebook. The main reason is that I like to show respect to my friends by spending time with them in real life and, when I do see them, I like to be able to exchange news individually.

    Facebook’s liberal attitude towards privacy also puts me off. Let’s see how long I can hold out.

    I’ve ordered a copy of the above-linked Idler’s pamphlet; I first heard about it at the Second Grand Anarcho-Dandyist Ball.

  2. I was a reluctant convert, but in practice I find Facebook perfectly useful as a Rolodex and a Directory Enquiries: genuinely useful as a social lubricant and it certainly doesn’t stop me from meeting my friends individually.

    The thing that annoys me most about it is how intelligent friends make themselves look like boring idiots on there because they can’t write properly or ‘univeralise’ things for their 200-strong audience. So I just don’t read the news feeds.

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