Ben Law

Ben-Law-Housetop

A telly programme called Grand Designs came up in conversation recently and Samara (my Canadian and therefore alien girlfriend) wanted to know about it.

The episode that had made the greatest impression on me was about a woodland house constructed using traditional methods and volunteer labour by a woodsman called Ben Law.

What stood out most in my recollection was that the house was built precisely around the dimensions of hay bales so that the bales could be neatly plopped into place for cheap, efficient, and eco-friendly insulation. It was just so neat and well-planned and straightforward. It prompted the question: why can’t everything be this simple? Why must everything be bloated and ostentatious and bogged down by bureaucracy?

So we snuggled down to watch this very episode on YouTube. It’s ace. It almost makes me want to join Ben Law and my own house-building chums the Wests and the Money Mustaches in doing the same. But only almost. Because I’m too lazy.

Anyway, here’s the vid:

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Out Soon! Issue 10

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herring

How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.

It’s a joke attributed to Woody Allen and the basis for our forthcoming bumper tenth edition: Tell Him Your Plans.

The theme is Absurdity: how to cope with the tedium of replacing toner cartridges in an infinite universe.

As well as top-notch articles and essays from all your New Escapologist favourites, we’ve got interviews with novelist Ewan Morrison and comedian Richard Herring; a tale of sick day liberation by Allan Wilson; and a thrilling escape story by Raptitude’s David Cain.

It’s one heck of an issue. Possibly our best yet.

Be among the first bold heroes to get a copy and pre-order now in print or more cheaply on PDF.

Also starring the Wise Space Baby from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey!

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Notes from Overground

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“Man is born free and is everywhere in trains.”

I’d like to recommend a twenty-year-old book called Notes from Overground by Tiresias.

It was probably my favourite read of 2013. Strangely enough, the Guardian mentioned it recently too, so maybe it’s time for a Tiresias renaissance.

The book should be held dear by any Escapologist. Treasure it. Keep it in your breast pocket, close to your heart. (If nothing else it might intercept a bullet during a particularly exciting post-employment misadventure).

It contains no practical information on how to escape the 9-5, but it’s a beautiful plaintive cry on behalf of commuters everywhere.

As it happens, the author Tiresias (real name Roger Green) eventually escaped. He went to live on the Greek island of Hydra to continue his life as a poet.

But before escaping, he commuted daily between Oxford and Paddington for twenty years. In Notes from Overground, he gives us extremely witty and highly-literate musings about life as an intelligent person relegated to white-collar purgatory. Do read it if you can find a copy.

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An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 38. Solvitur Ambulando.

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This post is dedicated to Escapologist of distinction Lentus who is walking the Camino Santiago. He taught me the term Solvitur Ambulando, which means “it is solved by walking”.

For almost three months, I’ve been prevented from walking everywhere by the ferocious Quebec winter. If that sounds sissy or uncommitted, you should know that we’re talking about snow up to the knees, torrents of slippery grey slush, pavements like frosted glass, and temperatures as low as -40°C (though -15 is more typical). Here’s the view from my balcony.

It’s not impossible to walk through this and it can be fun to do so on occasion, but when your daily routine includes two 45-minute walks, such oppressive conditions cease to be entertaining very quickly.

So I started travelling by bus. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m not hugely fond of a rush hour bus. It may offer protection from the elements, but it’s crowded and lurching and it frequently smells like farts.

For a fortnight now, the bus has been particularly bad. Several times, it has simply failed to arrive at all and I’ve resorted to splitting taxi cabs with other commuters after waiting in the cold for half an hour. Did I mention it’s -15°C on a good day?

So I’ve taken matters into my own hands this week and started walking again in spite of the winter. It’s no picnic, but at least I can stay relatively warm when walking, compared to standing still at a bus stop.

It’s also an opportunity to try some black-belt Stoicism. I just try to remember that my internal self cannot be pelted with ice. Only my outer shell is vulnerable.

The return to regular walking has been tough but rewarding. I feel strong and vital! The physical exercise doubtless helps, but it’s also the solitude and the time to think and the sense of being connected to the world instead of just crammed into the same cattle truck again and again, never really seeing anything.

Try it yourself. Damn the elements. Go for a walk. Solvitur Ambulando.

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