Write Your Own Manifesto

Life has no intrinsic meaning (but meaning is precious) so make some yourself.

This is from Ego’s manifesto. Everyone should write their own manifesto. Just base it on what they’ve learned in life so far. If you don’t write it all down somewhere, you’ll only forget it like a silly goldfish.

You could do worse than build your manifesto on top of the life audit (an exercise for figuring out what you really want in life) I discuss in the “Preparation” chapter of Escape Everything!

Ego again:

For people living in the UK: We do not need to work as much as we do if we do not wish to. We do not need to have a new car, a large house, an amazon echo, a gym membership, a new sofa (they are free second hand, this country is amazingly rich).

Every time we pay more for more comfort or enjoyment we are making a trade-off: freedom for stuff.

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An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 61. Escape Coronavirus?

Depressed by scenes of maskless Soho revelers seemingly rain-dancing for a second wave, my mind drifts in the direction of escape. I can’t help it. I’m an escape artist.

Unfortunately, my would-be escape is prevented by iron-clad reasons to stay put on Covid Island, but maybe you could act on this escape plan if you wanted to.

While the air bridges are open (act fast!), I would bugger off to Copenhagen for six months and wait the rest of the crisis out.

Denmark has suffered 600 Covid deaths to the UK’s shameful 60,000. Relatively normal life continues there if you don’t count today’s racist fish incident.

I like Copenhagen quite a bit, so I’d take a short rolling lease on a small apartment. I’d do the right thing by voluntarily quarantining my potentially asymptomatic ass for fourteen days, but after that, I’d spend 5.5 months looking at museums, walking, cycling, drooling over the urban planning solutions, drinking coffee and beer, reading and writing.

Maybe I’d even take the train to Billund to see Legoland. Come winter, I’d become acquainted with hygge. By then, one hopes, the Brits would have sorted themselves out and I could come home. If not, maybe I’d beg Denmark for asylum.

There’s probably something similar you can do if you live in America. Escape to somewhere in the Caribbean maybe? Japan?

Please send me a postcard if you do this.

*

Happier news in creative life. I’ve committed (emotionally, not contractually) to an idea for my next book after abandoning with a heavy heart the one I was writing before the Pandemic hit.

The new book will not be directly Escapological so I will shut up about it here and plop any more thoughts I want to communicate about it on my personal blog. I’m excited about it though, and I can’t wait to get started in August if not a little sooner. Much of the rest of July will be spent on a couple of other creative projects, not least helping to midwife The Good Life for Wage Slaves (pre-order, please!) into existence.

*

We’ve set up a small bird feeder in the hopes of attracting some feathered fools friends. This is something I do periodically it seems. The feeder we found is a little plastic house-shaped seed tray with suction cups for fixing it to the window. The idea is to attract smaller, prettier birds, but so far we’ve only drawn magpies, wood pigeons, and a crow.

Being large birds, this fearsome crew tend not to use the feeder itself and make do with any seeds or mealworm that have fallen onto the ledge. This means we generally only see their heads peeking over the window frame, apparently checking to see if we’re looking at them.

The name we’ve given to our crow is Corvid-19 (well, obviously). The magpies are my favourite though because they make a lot of noise, adding something natural and woodsy to the soundtrack of everyday life. And if we ever tire of their noisy visits, we can at least have some nostalgic fun by shouting, “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! Out, Out, Out!”

*

Lockdown is easing here in Scotland, though I’m glad our government has been more cautious than its counterpart in London. On Friday night, unless someone tells us we’ve misunderstood the rules, we’re going to visit some friends in their house. This will be the first time in three months we’ve been in anyone’s home other than our own. It’s going to be strange to see our friends’ faces without their constantly glitching. I might do some Max Headroom-type shtick just to make everyone feel more comfortable.

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Pre-Order-A-Go-Go

The Good Life for Wage Slaves is available to pre-order! This new book is the latest canonical offering from the New Escapologist stable and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s been a long time coming.

The book tells the story of my brief but tragic (tragic, I tell you!) return to office life and the subsequent escape. More importantly, it serves as a survival guide for those not yet ready or able to make a break for it.

It’s packed with the sort of practical tips and moral support you’d expect from a New Escapologist work, as well as plenty of storytelling and humour and new ways of looking at things. You can read the proper synopsis below.

The publication date is August 1st but the book can be pre-ordered now as a deluxe paperback (with extremely nice jacket flaps) and as an e-book.

Here’s that synopsis:

Are you satisfied by your job? Do you leap out of bed each morning with a song in your heart, eager to travel swiftly and painlessly to a fabulous workplace where the layout and technology are perfectly adapted to your goals and needs?

What of home life? Do you return from work each evening with time and energy to get stuck into your rewarding, creative projects? Do you have a good grasp of the sort of “home economics” mastered by your parents’ and grandparents’ generations? If so, this book is not for you.

If, on the other hand, your experience of the worker-consumer lifestyle is a screaming Hell of clueless, unsatisfying, underpaid, carcinogenic, insecure shambling that you never signed up for and is an affront to your years of difficult and expensive study, The Good Life for Wage Slaves might be the helpful volume–or at least the shoulder to cry on–you’ve been waiting for. It contains swearing. Also cats.

The book’s publication is quite a big event for me, as you might imagine. I’m very proud of it and, when the time comes, I hope you can be proud of it too.

It will be be available through the usual online retailers, but let’s see if we can sell more copies through our friendly indie publisher’s website than evil old Amaz*n, eh?

Here are those all-important links again: deluxe paperback and e-book. Get the transaction out of the way now, madam, would be my advice, and then the book will come zooming at you like a friendly meteorite in August

(If you’re not sure why pre-sales are important, here’s an explanation put my way by friend McKinley).

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Letter to the Editor: The Sense of Freedom is Amazing

To send a letter to the editor, simply write in. You’ll get a reply and we’ll anonymise any blogged version.

message-in-a-bottle

Dear New Escapologist,

I love your blog and newsletter. It has been making my trip from ‘desk’ (shudder) to the ‘free world’ easier since late last year. I’m laughing again. I liked this quote from the blog of Catrina Davis to which you linked us in the May 2020 newsletter:

Millions across the ‘developed’ world are having to confront the fact that the future they worked and planned for, the one they were sold over and over again, by countless teachers and politicians and estate agents, is officially a dud.

Ha ha ha. So true. Sadly, many have been so cajoled into a particular way of thinking that they believe this is life. The office is a soul-sucking environment. You are paid a sort of compensation to die quietly of all the health issues caused by sitting in a chair day after day, staring at a screen like zombie.

You are tricked into believing that ‘team spirit’ is something you need to possess. It kills your creativity and is another term for ‘following the herd’. I walked out and never looked back. The sense of freedom is amazing. 

I’m enjoying my life and feeling far healthier and happier than I ever did while ‘working’. 

Thanks for your wonderful blog and sense of humour,
S

More for Four

“A group of cross-party MPs have urged the government to consider a four-day working week for the UK post Covid-19,” the Guardian reports.

Escapologists would welcome such a change, whether we happen to still be in work or if we’ve escaped and simply hope for better conditions and less work time for our incarcerated friends.

We have, of course, been here before. There have been moments where it felt like traction was being made on a four-day workweek, the idea being championed by high-level think tanks or being weighed up by eminently sensible economists. So let’s not hold our breath.

There is the fact, however, as the article points out, that “work patterns have already been dramatically altered as a result of the pandemic,” and there are many discussions taking place around post-Covid economic recovery so it seems likely that champions for a shorter working week are more likely to be listened to at this moment.

I’d point out as well that a modest reduction in weekly work is perfectly in line with historical progress. The labour movement agitated first for a cap on weekly hours worked, then for a weekend, and then for paid vacations and paid ill-health or parental leave. Another day off seems like the next reasonable step.

I’d also point out the idea that a society’s wealth might not, in a dignified future, be measured solely by GDP but also by the amount of free time a citizen is afforded.

Who knows? As ever, we watch with baited breath.

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Yonder

Thanks to reader T for recommending Vivarium in which a young couple go shopping for a house… forever. Bwahaha, etc.

The film has a 5.8 rating on IMDB and even my favourite film critics, Mike and Jay, who are normally open to Twilight Zone– and Star Trek-like conceits, gave it a lukewarm reception. But it’s pretty good! It captures the fear of spooky suburbia quite well for me.

It is Escapological in that the characters are literally trying to escape a situation, but it’s also about a fear of mediocrity and settling and the pressure to embrace the suburban, boomerish dream.

It probably rings especially true to people with kids or those who feel a pressure from others to reproduce. In the film, the couple’s baby is delivered to them in a cardboard box as if from Amazon. The baby grows supernaturally quickly into a superbly creepy child to whom they struggle to relate. They don’t really know where the child came from or how it grows so fast or what kind of person or situation perpetuator it’s turning into.

I like also that the new suburban development to which they’re moving is called “Yonder.” As in, “over there,” “out of it,” a name grounded in the thinking of the Escapologist who wants out of The Trap or the system but doesn’t want to leave urban life completely.

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After the Storm

“Quarantine has forced me to slow down in ways I haven’t since I was a kid. From high school and college, through my 20s and a master’s program, I have been on the go constantly for half my life. I always said I was one who liked to be busy, but the last two months of forced slowdown has really called on me to think about what I want my life to look like.”

Reader Antiona draws our attention to the findings of a Vox magazine reader survey about the lockdown habits worth preserving once lockdown is over.

Such habits include consuming less, slowing down, prioritising relationships, finding the time for ethical action, taking regular exercise, cooking properly, spending more time in nature, and working from home.

Well, that’s the practically identical to our own decade-old ideas about how to live well! Good to see the world catching up. Again.

You might remember from Escape Everything! that the same conclusions are usually drawn by people approaching the end of their lives and my saying something like “it shouldn’t take an existential crisis to come to these conclusions.”

This may be so, but crisis certainly puts a flame under people’s bottoms and makes everyone reassess what’s important, what should be rescued from the burning building. All I’ll say now is: don’t forget about these important things until the next crisis.

Don’t let a return to work and the reopening of non-essential shops eclipse this all-important crisis-baked knowledge.

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Walking and Coffee

I like walking. You can stop and look at menus in restaurant windows and make eye contact with dogs. If you stay vigilant, you can pick up a surprising number of stray quarters. But most walks are not adventures. Most walks are to the grocery store to pick up diced tomatoes. I would like to say I am perpetually enchanted anyway, because I think that would be a testament to my character — She just finds magic everywhere she goes! — but I’m not. That is why I need the coffee.

I tend not to walk with coffee. Just as I tend to horse my popcorn before the movie starts so that I can concentrate on the film, I drink my coffee before I go walking. I find it a distraction from what I want from walking.

However! I enjoyed this article (brought to my attention by McKinley) about the joys of walking with coffee. The author clearly enjoys it as an activity and her enthusiasm is delightful. She also makes nice points about walking and coffee independent of each other. Most importantly, I just like essays about simple things, especially when they’re in the area of “quotidian sensory experiences.” It’s like something from Jerome K. Jerome’s Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. Just lovely.

Walking doesn’t improve the taste of coffee, but coffee improves the experience of being in the world. It blunts the harsher edges. Without coffee, there is “public space” and “private space.” With coffee, the whole city is your living room.

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Letter to the Editor: The Climate Refugees

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message-in-a-bottle
Dear Robert,

As a long-time supporter and fan of New Escapologist (and Escape Everything!, which I re-read periodically), I thought of you as I watched a film last night and am writing to share the details in case you and your readers fancy watching it too.

Vivarium (2019) is a dystopian critique of the suburban dream. The Guardian gave it four stars which I think is about right, if for no other reason than I’m still thinking about its dark message today.

I became acquainted with New Escapologist while I was still in corporate servitude. It planted a seed, nurtured further by Escape Everything!, that over time grew into an urge to leave it all behind.

I have since left employment, sold virtually all my possessions and moved from Australia to England with my partner (I’m British by birth but they are Australian) to live in a small but stylish one-bedroom flat in [a non-capital city]. We laugh, darkly, that we are climate refugees and find the UK climate more agreeable than the searing heat of an Australian summer. Our friends viewed it all with a combination of pity and scorn.

I have never once regretted doing it because I can now concentrate on perfecting minimalist living, making art and hoping that Covid-19 might trigger a lasting change in the way the world operates. I fear that I’m being overly optimistic on that last point.

Thank you for everything you do.

Warm regards,
T

Book Availability

Escape Everything! is frustratingly hard to get at the moment. In preparation for a paperback release, it’s no longer being distributed. Additionally, the paperback’s release has been pushed back to January thanks to Coronavirus.

There are some crazily high-priced copies for sale on various online marketplaces, but please don’t spend fifty quid on it. If you would like to buy Escape Everything!, the best way is to buy the hardback directly from our shop, or get the eBook version from the publisher, or look out for a used copy on eBay.

Latest issues and offers

1-7

Issues One to Seven

A bundle of our first seven issues. Featuring minimalism, Houdini, Leo Babauta, Bohemianism, Alain de Botton, Sartre, and Tom Hodgkinson. 567 pages. £35.

8-11

Issues Eight to Thirteen

A bundle of our last six issues. Featuring Luke Rhinehart, Flaubert, Mr Money Mustache, part-time work, Will Self, home life, Richard Herring, and E. F. Schumacher. 593 pages. £30.

Issue Thirteen

Our final issue. Featuring an interview with celebrity mortician Caitlin Doughty; Matt Caulfield on zen fool Ryokan; and Reggie C. King on David Bowie and Sun Ra. 122 pages. £7.

Escape Everything!

A hardback guide to scarpering. Essential reading for wage slaves and slugabeds alike. Published by Unbound. 230 pages. £12.