They’re independent fellas
They don’t live nine to fives
Monsters lead such interesting lives.
I just gobbled up Neil Gaiman’s little book, Art Matters. It’s a collection of thoughtful bits and bobs, including a speech he gave to new arts graduates, on the subject of art and writing.
It’s eminently quotable and there are a couple that will resonate with Escapologists:
I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I’d become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.
And, most importantly:
The nearest thing I had [to a plan] was a list I made when I was 15 of all everything I wanted to do. … I didn’t have a career, I just did the next thing on the list.
That list is pretty much the same thing as the “life audit” I suggest making in Escape Everything! and NG was obviously very clever to do it at 15. It’s never too late though: stand back, take stock, and decide what it is you want to do.
The possibilities are endless. If not Endless.
Escape Everything! has been a much-needed source of reassurance and motivation for me over the past several months. Thank you for creating this book! After I finished it, I immediately started reading again, this time keeping track of my favorite passages.
My husband and I created our Escape Plan about a year ago, and I found the New Escapologist site shortly after that. We are about 6 months away from Escape. We are going to quit our jobs, sell our house, and take an extended road trip.
In Chapter 9 you joke about stating to one’s employer “I just hate work and want to be free” as a reason for wanting to work fewer hours. I had a good laugh and am seriously considering using this line when I resign from my job!
Thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful writing and point of view.
The final house inspection by the Nanaimo Regional District building inspector was on May 3, however it took a couple of more weeks to secure the occupancy permit as we had to replace the glazing in a stair bottom window with tempered glass so the inspector could sleep at night.
I’ve posted about it before (and possibly mentioned it in EE!) but New Escapologist contributor Rob West and his family have been building a house in British Columbia, escaping a stressful life in expensive London and Vancouver.
Well, after five years, they’re moving in and it’s a beauty. Look at that circular window! Congrats, Wests.
New Escapologist‘s art director Samara is taking part in a drawlloween thing for the duration of October. The idea is for artists to illustrate a different Halloween concept each day according to prompts set in advance.
As well as following the prompts, Samara’s chosen sub-theme is “terrible workplace humour,” so we get to see what various Monsters of Horror would look like if they had day jobs.
Today’s prompt is “Cryptid” so she gives us the Mongolian Death Worm as if it worked in an office:
This is the Mongolian Death Worm, which releases a miasma of poison that kills anything it touches, and also chews loudly and reads its emails out loud to itself.
Check it out and, if you’re on Instagram yourself, give her some likes of encouragement.
These quotes are from Trawl, a 1966 novel by B. S. Johnson, further evidence, if any were needed, that a hatred of dreary employment runs through our literature, being so close to the human heart.
What I made money from [seemed] irrelevant, arbitrary, and I felt it should not be. One thing I did decide, was sure about, was that was that I was not going back to being a bank clerk as I had been in the six months between leaving school and being called up: I could not stand any of the work, the people, the atmosphere. But what I would do I just did not know, and could not think: and I could not even think of anything I would like to be, except the impossible things, like a writer, or a film director, or just rich.
I had gone at fourteen to a school which specialised in turning boys into clerks and accountants, and girls into typists and secretaries: and could therefore keep accounts, type, even do shorthand, though very slowly, and was fitted, even trained and qualified after a style, to be a clerk in some sort of office: which fitting was dismaying to me after my experience at the bank. The point was that such work involved repetition, often quite complex repetition, but nevertheless the same sort of thing day after day after day.
I’ve just returned from a whistle-stop tour of England. Well, London and Birmingham and bits of the countryside anyway.
A fine time was had, but when I saw an otherwise-pretty country cottage plastered with Brexit Party logos and slogans, I felt a surge of genuine shock. I wouldn’t want a world so homogenised that people didn’t have different ideas on how to run it, but my life is so insulated from hardcore Brexit sensibilities by living in Scotland and rarely visiting anywhere other London when I venture south, that it felt like I’d seen a house emblazoned with swastikas.
I’m willing to accept that this might say more about me than it does about the world. Nobody yet knows how history will see the present moment, but as a rootless cosmopolitan I found it chilling to say the least. It’s the idea that this madness was present all along–all through the sanguine ’90s and the neolib noughties–lurking darkly and burning hot.
Around the time of the EU Referendum, I saw some graffiti in Glasgow that read, “Let all the poison that lurks in the mud, hatch out.” This turns out to be from I, Claudius by Robert Graves (from whom, incidentally, New Escapologist takes it’s subtitle, “Goodbye to all that”). Maybe this is what we’re going through: letting the poison hatch out, getting some bile up for a nation’s health and a better world, the cottage I saw being but one manifestation of this. I’d like to believe it, but I don’t. I think there’s years of this bullshit yet to wade through and there will be huge amounts of additional damage to control.
Something else. There’s been an aesthetic change in England since I’ve been gone. Things feel distinctly folksy and anti-Modernist in a theme parkish way well suited to the era of Amazon and Etsy. I saw lots of people wearing tweed waistcoats and Peaky Blinders caps, and everything now seems to be covered with bunting. These pretensions to “vintage” style are aligned somewhere between hipster and UKIP, a Wartime tweeness represented in cutesy little cakes, pinafore strings, the union flag, electro-swing, and stocking seams. It all seems to say “This is as it should be,” but the aesthetic has confused authenticity with kitsch. I can just see them all huddled in bunkers after the Union and the EU, singing “we’ll all go together when we go” and believing it to be a consoling English song. The English are bringing back Their Day, reimagined and remixed through the lenses of nostalgic conservatism, CAD technologies, and an online shopping experience that grants people whatever they want. What they want in provincial England seems to be a sort of Replicant village May Day, Empire without the Empire.
Hey, do what you like! But please remember to also do the right thing.
I witnessed further historical moment in London when rubbing shoulders with Extinction Rebellion. I joined a small Idler contingent at Trafalgar Square for a “Do Less” campaign proximate to the somewhat larger XR disruption. I was over two hours late, which means I win at idling.
The event was quite exciting. I’ve been to lots of protests and marches and Anarchist or Socialist events over the years, but there was a palatable sense here that the protest was a genuine interface with Power, that They might be paying attention. Who knows?
At first, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to climb to the level of the lions on Nelson’s Column, but Tom and Brendan and Flo offered encouragement: “Just get your knee up!” I’ve said it before: the strongest force in the universe is peer pressure.
Flo has filed a nice and more detailed report at the Idler website:
Also present was Robert Wringham, Idler contributor and frugality expert. Robert doled out cheese sandwiches at Nelson’s Column to keep starving editor Tom Hodgkinson from going full anarchist and smashing up a police van. Thankfully he arrived at just the right time for lunch, or we may have been making this report from a prison cell.
We sang Lie Down And Be Counted by Neil Innes to the strumming of Tom’s uke. I’ve been suffering from laryngitis and so my deeply-hoarse Larry David (Larynge David?) voice was extremely audible over the others, especially when I routinely came in early on “what are we standing for.”
I missed my Patreon deadline last month because I decided that my essay about tiny houses wasn’t quite up to scratch, so nobody was charged. This is the kind of quality control you can expect from New Escapologist. Will there be an essay at the end of this month? Join us on Patreon to find out.
Sound the party alarm, for this is the one-year anniversary of escaping my most recent brush with employment. To hear about why I ever went back to a jay-oh-bee, you can read this previous diary entry, but for now I just want to say a resounding “phew!” and also “wow!”
Nothing on Earth can hold Houdini a prisoner!
It can be hard to know for sure if your decisions are the right ones. I’ve learned over the years not to sweat the small stuff though, learning that optimisation and “best possible outcomes” aren’t as important as just having a nice time and doing things well and in the right spirit. I’ve also learned to ignore pesky thoughts of Sliding Doors-style alternate realities: “what if I did this instead of that?” But on this occasion, I am certain I made the right choice by escaping as soon as possible. The job really was a hindrance to getting on with what I wanted to do. It was also beginning to make me fat and depressed. Zero regrets.
I find myself in good shape one year on: financially, creatively and in terms of physical and mental health. I do not feel sluggardly or anxious at the moment, ready instead to have fun and to create some amusing, useful works.
My first order of “business” on escaping again was to write my next book, The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Based on a true story! It’s coming out in Germany in March and in the UK… eventually. But it is written and I’ve even seen the typeset German version and its lovely cover, all of which is a fairly amazing turnaround for just one year of finger-wiggling, and I still remember how good (if slightly odd) it felt to start writing as soon as I’d quit, almost as if nothing had happened.
The rest of the year has been busier than I’d typically be when unused because of Operation Breadhead. This, I’m happy to report is going well too. We are now (as of 5th October) halfway through the event and 86% through target. We might even have made target by the end of November. This is a relief, as all we’ll need to do to win our “indefinite leave” visa at that point is to run out the clock and complete the forms. The financial woe—always the hardest part for me—will be behind us. For this I have to thank some of you for buying my stuff and for engaging my writing and editing services. Thank you, readers and friends. Moral turpitude issues aside, I might yet not be chased out of my own country!
I have been in a nostalgic mood lately, especially after visiting my parents last week and, when fancying a stroll, deciding to recreate my old walk to school and back. I hadn’t seen these houses and corners and minor landmarks for over twenty years and I almost blubbed. So in thinking about the old office job as I sit to write my diary now, I find I have some fond memories of former colleagues and of the Blitz spirit of shared boredom. But no! Always remember, never forget!
Thanks for your help this past year, everyone. If you’d like to help with the final furlong of Operation Breadhead, you could buy some stuff here. But don’t feel pressured because (and I’ll say this part quietly) I think we’re fine.