An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 43: And For My Next Trick.


At the awards ceremony (did I mention that?) in Ontario, I met a literary agent who said a writer, as well as writing, should have a day job and a partner who works.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear me disagree.

The idea presumably is that day jobs and working partners are a “double lock” against complete professional and financial failure, and perhaps that the double information input from these day jobs can provide the raw material for a literary output.

I prefer to throw caution to the wind when it comes to life and work (it’s served me well so far) and to just get on with things in terms of writing. When I have a job, my prevailing thoughts are “this is an appalling expectation” and “why can’t I just be left alone to get on with my stuff?” none of which is very productive. As for a working partner, I wouldn’t wish a job on an enemy let alone the person I’m uniquely squiggly about.

Regardless of my thoughts on the matter it’s starting to look as though my partner and I will be following the agent’s advice to some extent.

A term of my wife’s immigration to Britain from Canada is that her spousal sponsor (that’s me!) earns £18,600 per year. Without revealing the full moth-ridden shame of my personal finances to you, dear reader, I do not usually make £18,600 per year. We live well and have never been in debt but that’s not enough for the British government. They want to keep Bohemian types off these shores, and that includes my life partner. Honestly, they don’t know what they’re missing. She’s fab!

Fortunately, we’ve found a rare loophole that (assuming the Tory vermin don’t close it this year) will allow Sam and me to share the burden of earning the £18,600. Sam’s looking for a j-o-b and I’ll be relying largely on short-term contract work like some sort of hipster-for-hire.

We can’t depend on our (by most standards quite substantial) savings because the value of savings is subject to an equation designed to make it look like a pittance. We can’t depend on the kind of literary or arty schemes I’m known for either. I could reframe my entire artistic output as self-employment by keeping detailed accounts, but the criteria for this is confusing and contradictory so I’m terrified of Sam’s visa being rejected on a technicality.

So it looks like Robert W, self-styled master Escapologist, has little choice but to OBEY and must knuckle down for a spell. No more getting up at 11, no more boozy breakfasts, no more writing or chatting into the we small hours. A crushing blow really, to have the shackles put back on so mercilessly despite thinking we’d got things all figured out (the £18,600 financial requirement has only existed since 2012).

We have for a while felt like Winston and Julia in Nineteen Eighty Four, cast asunder in a gigantic, unforgiving mechanism. But we’ll not dwell on that. Let this diary be cheerful.

I mentioned in the last thrilling installment that I’ve accepted a one-month contract at a university. It’s going surprisingly well. Today will see my twelfth working day draw to a close: almost halfway through. The campus is rather beautiful, abundant with wildlife; my temporary colleagues are a very good-natured bunch; and (I can’t quite believe I’m writing these words) I’m enjoying the commute.

After a short and barely-noticeable jaunt on the tube, I take a half-hour train ride into the countryside, followed by a twenty-minute brisk walk to the campus. I like trains and I like walking, so it works out nicely. I wouldn’t be so chipper about this if the train were a crammed inner-city commuter one or if the walk was much longer or less scenic. I’ve been lucky.

Feelings of “that I have to do this is a fucking outrage” are mitigated by the fact that the job is temporary and that it’ll be nice to have some extra cocktail money anyway. I’ve also started, rather uncharacteristically, keeping a nature diary, for which twice-daily walks in the countryside provide ample fodder.

I have secret hopes of winning less desk-bound, more arty contracts. A new artist friend is good at raising money and seems willing to hire me in some capacity. Meanwhile, poor Sam’s applying for all manner of curious employment to shoulder her half of the burden.

For all my cheerful (stoical?) approach to the situation, being forced into work could barely come at a worse time. My book, Escape Everything, is due for publication quite soon. Received an early sample of the cover art yesterday evening and it looks utterly marvelous. I need to be available for last-minute edits and, afterwards, for any promotional work and public events. As much as anything though, it’s embarrassing to have written the bible of Escapology only to fall into mandatory (albeit brief and fairly undemanding) employment almost immediately. I hope people see how extraordinary my circumstances are.

Still, all this at least provides material for the next few issues of New Escapologist. Watch in awe, ladies and gentlemen, as the Great Roberto escapes his toughest predicament to date! This surely is my “Chinese Water Torture Cell” moment. Let’s see if I can escape.

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

8 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 43: And For My Next Trick.”

  1. Spoonman says:

    I wish you both luck in meeting the income threshold, I think you’re handling it quite well so far. As far as having to do a little work on the eve of the book release, I wouldn’t really sweat it. You can tune the amount of work you do to meet the requirement and nothing more.

    Even folks like MMM and Jacob have flirted with employment of sorts.

    I know you despise your old library job, but have you thought about working as a “page” (putting books away) at a library? I used to work as a library page high school and college, it was a mindless job that allowed my mind to expand and think about other things.

  2. Being a page is a nice job, if a tad stressful in term time where there are so many books to shelve. It’s not much good for me though, being worth around £7 per hour (librarians make about £25-30). It’d be fine if the aim was just to live nicely, but not much thrust in the race to £18.6k. (They’re actually quite hard jobs to get as well: there’s always a queue of youngsters who want to do it). Thanks for the confidence boost though, Spoons. Looking forward to making the post that confirms we made it!

  3. Louisa says:

    Recently discovered your blog & am thoroughly enjoying it! But I’m confused– I thought you were living in Colombia for awhile. I was looking forward to cultural perspectives, having spent a month there in 2011.

  4. Aw, no. There are two posters at the blog now, and we’re struggling to demonstrate who’s talking at any one time. I’m Rob, and the second blogger is called Lentus. Lentus is the fellow who’s living in Colombia. He’s a good egg and will certainly talk to you about it. He’s got his own personal blog here too:

  5. Win says:

    So how long do you have to go back to work before your wife “qualifies”? I do hope it doesn’t take long, this site has been an inspiration to me and i’ve just managed to escape, albeit at a more
    advanced age than your average reader I suspect.

  6. The criteria is to have earned £18,600 in the course of the previous year: previous, that is, to the assessment meeting we’ll have to schedule (and pay quite handsomely for) with an immigration officer. So, actually, I think it’ll only take as long as it takes to raise the money and schedule a meeting. The race is on! I estimate it’ll take about a year though, which is fine because filing a tax return in April 2016 will sort of seal the deal on our annual finances and provide useful documentation for the meeting.

    After that, I believe there’s another assessment two years later for indefinite leave to remain. So potentially we’re in this situation for a total of three years. My wife wants to work full-time eventually though, if she finds the right job, so (from the immigration perspective) I’ll be able to put my feet up when that happens.

    Annoys me when people say immigrants have it easy or are pouring in from all corners. Simply ain’t so. It’s almost impossible.

  7. chrisbo says:

    I’ve been marking exam scripts for my local university for about 5 years, pays me around £8-10k per year and all i needed was an undergrad degree to obtain the work. Funny thing is, when people ask what i do, my response is ‘Economic research’. They assume i’m doing a PhD but i do none of the sort! not sure how long i can pull this off for, but it’s not uncommon that people spend 10years on a research project. It can be hard laborious work at times but i can do this at home or in coffee shops – ideal.

  8. Hah! Nice one chrisbo. Might even look into doing some “economic research” myself.

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