The Winds in the Mangroves

Further to our recent post about living on a boat, here’s a nice video about an off-grid house boat called the Gypsy Rose. The person who lives here, a peaceful fellow who used to be a clown and mime artist, has essentially found himself a spot in paradise.

In the video he speaks of “the sounds of the tides flowing in and out, and the winds in the mangroves.” And just look a that chalk-coloured water. I could handle that.

There’s some additional info at the Living Big in a Tiny House website.

Patreon and Newsletter News

Awooga! There’s a new NE Patreon essay online called Ye Olde Internette: Or How to Escape Web 2.0.

It differs a little from the usual “why and how you might leave social media” arguments in that the escape from social media is only one part of the Big Idea and also in that it offers a distinct plan: go back to Web 1.0.

I crave proper engagement again: the lengthy blogs, chats, threads and emails we’d exchange circa 2000 were so much more interesting and creative than anything mediated by Twitter or Facebook.

The world of Web 1.0. is still there, like your childhood toys, a little dusty perhaps, but waiting in hope for your return.

The essay has proved popular with readers so far. There have been several nice comments and emails.

To read the new essay, you need to support New Escapologist projects through Patreon. Please do! There will be more essays of substance like this one released later in the year.

In slightly-related news (related inasmuch as I’m rethinking how to use the Internet), I’m sending out a newsletter to New Escapologist mailing list subscribers tomorrow. If you’re not already on the list, why not join now? It’s free.

I hope to rejuvenate the old newsletter and to send out something fun and interesting every month or two from now on. It’s a half-step back to the magazine days. Fun!

EDIT: The newsletter is now rejuvenated. First issue is here.

Canal Boat Life

There are some neat profiles in today’s Observer of people (couples and singletons) who live on Canal Boats.

Some of you singled out the brief mention of a boat-dweller in Escape Everything! so perhaps this is of interest to you. Their lives are certainly Escapological.

Cheap:

I’m on an army pension and it does not suffice me to live in a flat or a house. I’ve lived on a boat for seven years. Now my rent is cheap, council tax is cheap, it’s cheap living and I can afford it even if I lose all my benefits.

Minimalist:

What do our wardrobes consist of? About 10 pairs of dungarees. Matt wears a waistcoat with a tiny vest underneath in the summer. Large party dresses with netting underneath are a big no-no on a boat because you’d knock everything over, and if you fell in you’d sink. 

Creative:

I use this place to sleep, write, design and then I go to work in my studio. The best bit is being able to have a real fire. It means I can look at the flames and use my imagination to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I don’t need a television.

Green:

Living on a boat forces you to be green. I have two solar panels. Our water is in a thousand-litre stainless steel water tank that we fill up from water points. All the wood we use is reconstituted wood and the electricity is run by batteries – we don’t plug in to the short. I think it’s one of the greenest ways to live.

Independent:

You become aware how much is needed to live and you live a much simpler life. It’s quite liberating.

Doable:

I went on eBay and bought a boat, just like that. 

More Lanier

You, you, you, have the affirmative responsibility to invent and demonstrate new ways to live without the crap that is destroying society. Quitting is the only way, for now, to learn what can replace our grand mistake.

I recently read Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier.

It’s a brilliant book and not your typical “abandon social media” tirade. It is filled with unique insight from someone who really understands Silicon Valley and is in fact still a part of it.

I like how he has not abandoned the Internet wholesale and instead urges the social media giants to reform their dark and creepy business plans, encouraging us to delete our accounts at least until it is fixed.

Check it out if you want to. In the meantime, the quotations in this post are the ones I marked in my copy of the book. They make wider Escapological points beyond discussion of the Internet.

This:

What if listening to an inner voice or heeding a passion for ethics or beauty were to lead to more important work in the long term, even if it measured as less successful in the moment? What if deeply reaching a small number of people matters more than reaching everybody with nothing.

and this:

Your character is the most important thing about you. Don’t let it degrade.

and this:

You must solve problems on the basis of evidence you gather on your own, instead of by paying attention to group perception. You take on the qualities of a scientist or an artist. When you’re in a pack, social status and intrigues become more immediate than the larger reality. You become more like an operator, a politician, or a slave.

Without Work, Who Do We Become?

If work were no longer what it used to be, how we would cope? Who would we even be?

Mark Kingwell is a long-serving thinker in the fields of work and leisure. You’ve probably read some of his work already. Among other things, he wrote the introductory essays to Josh Glenn’s Idler’s and Wage Slave’s Glossaries. He’s also a UoT colleague of Joseph Heath whom we interviewed in New Escapologist Issue 9 (we also interviewed Josh in Issue 7).

This quick column of his is over six months old now because I sat on it for too long. Sorry about that. It contains many nice nuggets:

More than two millennia ago, Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, argued a fundamental point: The essence of human life is not work. Work lies in the realm of necessity, not philosophy. Leisure time, understood as the contemplation of the divine, is the true aim of life.

Another Escapee

Hello Robert, 

I just wanted to say a huge thank you. I read your book and took the back catalogue of your magazine away on my Summer Holidays last year. Fast forward ten months and this week is my last in my [civil service] job. I handed my resignation in and have found part-time work with a friend in street food catering. 

I am happier, more carefree and have a smile back on my face.And this wouldn’t have happened without your writing.  

Thank you for the inspiration to make the great escape.

Kind Regards
C

An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 55. Operation Breadhead

I’ve been working harder than usual to make money. It’s a year-long project of uncharacteristic money-grubbing. I call it Operation Breadhead and we’re three months in.

I have a big pie-chart, which I look at every day to see how far I am from making the money I need. Cash earned so far displays in the pie as green (my favourite colour) and it advances against the red (my least favourite colour) in a genuine attempt at motivating myself (to replace red with green). Instead of red, I thought about using a picture of Theresa May’s office-manager face, which I could gradually cover with pleasant rain-forest green, but I couldn’t work out how to do that in Google Sheets.

This is all to do with the visa again, I’m afraid, and the associated minimum income requirement. We satisfied it last time through horrible, horrible employment [place werewolf howling sound effect here], but this time we have chosen to resist such catastrophic disruption to our lives and to do it through part-time employment (on my wife’s part) and self-employment (on mine). Tactical!

For my part, this has meant writing, writing, writing. And managing that writing enterprise in a way that I have never bothered about before. Honestly, I even have an accountant now. I’m dabbling with overseas editions and things like that too.

It’s actually been a lot of fun. Being creative and resourceful instead of submitting to a tedious day job is Escapology in a nutshell. And where the project is not “fun” per se, it has at least been instructive and interesting. I’ve had to stretch myself and increase my usual annual income by about 20% but, let’s face it, that’s something I should do anyway.

It’s also rather exciting to know that once it’s done, it’s done forever this time. At the end of this financial year, we’ll have everything we need for “indefinite leave” on the visa front, and my wife and I can be together with minimum threat of being separated or forced to leave my own country.

Anyway, we’re three months into Operation Breadhead and all goes well. In fact, I hit 50% of my target after the first two months, which was a considerable confidence boost and a welcome relief of pressure, but this large chunk relied on shaking some old piggy banks — calling in my book royalties and the likes — rather than creating new work.

I’ve also been running around, writing bits and bobs for magazines, though this has been for comparably small amounts of money and involves an inordinate amount of chasing people up to actually get paid. I don’t know why they’re like this: I doubt they’re so evasive about paying, say, their electric bill, so why give the writers a hard time when they’re arguably an even more important ingredient in conjuring up a magazine? Has there ever been a strike? Surely, we’re essential?

It has proven less difficult to extract money from less-creative writing projects. Copywriting and the likes. This is because the money for such work seems to come from marketing budgets, which are generally taken more seriously. You know, because marketing.

In particular, I’ve been doing some copywriting for English universities whose marketing budgets are clearly through the roof. This is fairly dull, though the people are nice. One fellow for whom I’m writing is a kindly Canadian who grew up two streets over from where my in-laws now live in Montreal. He’s a lovely fellow with a passion for his academic subject, though he rarely seems to remember who I am when I call. This sort of thing always bewilders me: even if you can’t remember my name, why isn’t this pre-arranged phone call in your diary? Why are you expecting the call? Still, at least this sort of scatterbrain nature doesn’t seem to be in service of “forgetting” to pay me.

As a consistent side project that will take far longer than the Breadhead period to complete, I’ve been editing and transcribing sections of a friend’s life-long travel journal. He is kind to pay me for this as I used to read his writing purely for pleasure. The total work is (genuinely) three times longer than War and Peace and its not finished yet. He’s going to be the Samuel Pepys of end-of-the-century travel writing one day. He has, quite simply, been everywhere. Literally everywhere you can think of.

Elsewhere for this omni-caper, I directed a one-person comedy show, helped to design a library (not sure if that qualifies as literary work but it was at least pleasant and studious and was no struggle to get paid), and edited part of a book about ’80s indie music.

Aaaaanyway. I just wanted to let you know what’s happening at the moment in this life on the lam. I’m treating the visa situation as just another escape: escape from a pesky situation using tactics and a little bit of elbow-grease, this time (largely) on my own terms.

I know this all looks rather busy and manic but the fact remains that I really do only put in about four hours a day before kicking back with a book (I’m currently reading the diaries of David Sedaris and a funny old book about “microbes”) or hitting the pub or the cinema.

Don’t worry, gang. The next Escapology-focused book is in the works too. It is written and is in the hands of my agent. More on this when I have it.

*

The point of this here long-running Escapologist’s Diary series, by the way, is to chronicle the life of an Escapologist, to help answer the question of “what would I do if I didn’t have a job?” in almost sarcastic detail. You can now do this in even more granular detail (what joy!) over here. Leave a comment to help me feel less like I’m spaffing away into the abyss.

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