The Escape of Henri Rochefort (Or: The Adventures of My Life)

While slouching around the art museums of Belgium, I photographed this painting and sent it to friend Landis with the subject heading, “#HairGoals.”

We’re both proud of our vertical hair, you see. I’m on record somewhere saying that my hair ideal is to look like “an exploded cigar”. Here’s a picture of me and Landis with our hairs.

Anyway, when Lando asked who the fellow in the picture actually was, I had no idea. I am a bit of a clot, when all is said and done.

But I decided to find out. The subject of the painting is one Henri Rochefort, a French writer. There are many paintings (and drawings and daguerreotypes and sculptures) of him online and he has spectacularly electrocuted hair in all of them.

I think we might have discovered an interesting person here. He wrote some very silly vordevilles, but he also became such an outspoken Socialist that he was locked up more than once and the French authorities even tried to deport him. That’s my kind of guy! Silly and radical. People think they can’t go together but they can, can, can so.

He was sentenced to be dumped on New Caledonia, a remote French colony on a Pacific Island. But he escaped! He escaped his deportment on what Wikipedia describes as “an American boat.”

His escape was painted in a rather celebratory way by Manet. I don’t know if Manet actually saw the boat on which Henri escaped, but it can’t have been a little rowboat like that one, can it? In the Pacific Ocean? If it was, then Henri was even more amazing than I currently think he is.

I like how Manet made Henri look heroic but, even in quite dire circumstances, also silly. Like Charlie Chaplin at sea. I think he probably captured his essence.

Let us honour all escapes in the form of Impressionist paintings.

Another detail: Henri Rochefort’s five-volume autobiography is called Les Aventures de ma vie, or, The Adventures of My Life. Even if we don’t actually write them, we should all live as if we intend to write five volumes of memoir called The Adventures of my Life. Don’t you think?


Silly and radical, you say? Try my books, I’m Out and The Good Life for Wage Slaves. Or, more on theme, how about one of my dandyist humour collections like Stern Plastic Owl?

An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 70. Belgique.

We took an 8-hour train journey from Scotland to Belgium last week. I wanted to go on Eurostar* and to see THE ATOMIUM.

(*I’d somehow never been on this famous train, yet I longed to go on it when they were still drilling the hole)

For years, I thought the Atomium was a sculpture but, of course, it’s a building. You can go inside it.

Each of the little pods holds a visitor attraction: there’s a restaurant, a contemporary art gallery, an exhibition about the 1958 World’s Fair for which the Atomium was built, and so on.

One of the pods held a scale model of the Atomium. I was in a silly mood, high on life, so I gave it a kiss.

(I have a cold now, but I’m sure that’s an unrelated coincidence.)

Much like in Naples, we saw a lot of rain during this trip, but we’d have got just as wet if we’d stayed at home in Glasgow. Besides, when you travel by train you can take an umbrella along without worrying that it will be confiscated when it doesn’t fit into your little travel bag.

And in Glasgow we wouldn’t have seen the six art museums we visited in Belgium, enriching me to the very core. The older I get, the more I thirst for art. I was desperate to see art during the pandemic. I’m keen to see more of the world, to see more art and to hear more languages, before the next disaster forces us all to stay at home again. The pandemic happened after a year of voluntarily not travelling in order to save money or emissions or something, so I saw shit all for three years. I have learned my lesson.

I won’t say too much more about the trip because my travel entries to this diary are boring. All you need to know, dear imaginary shareholder, is that we saw four cities (Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp) in four days (or in three days actually, since the fourth was spent in Brussels where we began) and that it was great, great, great.

Travel. It cannot be beat. Also, I saw THE ATOMIUM. With mine eyes. We went up it in a lift!


Help me to fund more micro-adventures buy buying my books, I’m Out and The Good Life for Wage Slaves.

Dad Made An Announcement

I just finished reading Birdgirl by 19-year-old Mya-Rose Craig. It’s an understatement to say she’s accomplished.

As a birdwatcher, for example, she became the youngest person, at 17, to have seen half the world’s bird species.

Her book is a memoir of how she and her parents travelled the world in search of so many birds. It’s all a bit precocious really:

It didn’t come as a great surprise to my parents when, at eight years old, I announced that I would visit each of the seven continents before I was fifteen.

But then “precocious” is probably ageist. We wouldn’t say that of someone in their thirties or forties. Touching down on the soils of all continents is a beautiful ambition.

The book is good, though Mya has a careerist, even managerial, voice that I find a bit disturbing. She routinely uses phrases like “a solution-led manifesto” and “I was keen to take part” (examples taken from the same random page), so that the book reads a bit like a workplace email. But maybe young people have to speak officiously now. Maybe, against a background of economic and political urgency, they haven’t been able to develop less terrifying speech patterns. Maybe a performance in management speak, the only language our leaders will hear, is the rain dance necessary to tackle the climate crisis. I’m not sure.

Anyway, the happy passage I want to share with you is this one:

Dad […] made an announcement. From now on, we would change the way we lived. There would be no more unnecessary spending; if travelling was what kept our family together then everything we had or made would go toward such trips […] Dad was choosing experience over possessions; it was to become his mantra.

And so the Craigs decide to travel the world like some mildly dysfunctional (but loving and thoughtful) Wild Thornberrys.

I love a moment like that. I love hearing about the moment when the decision to change everything, to escape, is made. Do you remember yours?

Escape today with I’m Out!

Rage Apply?

From the stable of talent that brought you “the Great Resignation,” the “rage quit“, “quiet quitting” and “the Sunday scaries” (i.e. the obsolete Boomer media seizing on Gen-Z chit-chat, magnifying it for a readership of tutting and furrowed-browed dads) comes the “Rage Apply.”

Forbes says:

Feeling overlooked, unappreciated, passed over for a promotion and unfairly compensated has inspired a new career trend on TikTok. “Rage applying” to jobs is being touted on the social media platform as a great way to get even with your mean boss

And as Urban Dictionary puts it:

Applying to new jobs at different companies when you are fed up at your current job.

[e.g.] I’m rage applying to new jobs because I’m angry at my boss or coworker.

So… applying for a new job when you don’t like your current one?

Isn’t that just basic self determination within a free market system? Hasn’t that always existed?

If you don’t like your job, you can try and find a new one. It’s probably the least radical, least critical, least boat-rocking thing a person can do, aside from just suffering through it. Right?

Leave the kids alone, Forbes. In this case, they’re not questioning the work ethic or trying to smash the system. Bloody hell.

Being able to leave is a worker’s readiest magic bullet, especially when the possibility of a strike is under threat.

It’s not about “getting even” with a “mean boss” (well, except when it is). It’s basic mobility. It’s barely even Escapology.

Rage apply? Rage apply? It isn’t anything. Fuck you, Forbes.


For ideas on how to escape, try I’m Out (formerly published as Escape Everything!) and for a shoulder to cry on, try The Good Life for Wage Slaves.

“That’s a Nice Idea”: Wringham Responds to Your Comments

We’re running a survey to help shape the new run of the magazine. It’s open until the end of January. If you didn’t know about it already, you’re probably getting our emails, so be sure to join the mailing list for a cheerful monthly newsletter.

At the end of the questionnaire, there’s a space for general comments. And you’ve all been so nice! There have been some questions and constructive suggestions in there, for which I remain grateful. Since the survey is anonymous, I can’t respond to anyone individually so I’ve collated my responses here. It’ll serve as a sneak peek into what the returning print mag will be like too.

I fucking love New Escapologist!

Thank you, mother.

I arrived too late to be part of the initial magazine party, one way to raise funds I think would be offer a digital (probably easier) or physical full back catalogue at a discount.

Nobody is too late! The original 13 issues were written to withstand the tests of time, precisely so new people could read them forever. Doubtless they’ve aged a bit in the five to fifteen years since they were published but not in the usual way of magazines. Think of it as patina. You can buy Issues 1-7 at discount here (or here for PDF editions) and Issues 8-13 here (here for PDF).

There needs to be more women/different/better gender balance for me. For example, your list of authors [in one of the survey questions] is nearly all men. I do enjoy your writing but a print magazine needs to reflect the readership. If it’s for men, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t be reading it so much.

Quite right. I don’t want the magazine to be yet another boys’ club. As well as being morally bleak, it would be aesthetically dull. In real life I’m quite sensitive to this sort of thing and I seek pluralism in my reading. This will be reflected in the mag.

The author list you mention was a sausage fest but the object of the question was to capture people’s preferences for writing style (e.g. Orwell being straight and clean, Le Guin being vibrant and radical, Sedaris being a living humorist, Ferriss being self-helpy). That the authors best suited to serve as reference points were almost exclusively male* is indeed a shitty thing, a consequence of decades of male privilege. I vow not to prop up that culture in the mag. I have two female columnists in mind and a particular non-white female author for the first issue’s interview. These aren’t diversity hires either, they’re people whose work I love. Perhaps even more importantly, editorial (the voice of the mag) will never assume the reader is male. That’s a promise.

(*Le Guin was the only woman on the list; she was almost the most popular option as well, just 1% of the vote share behind winner Orwell).

Here are three separate comments concerning a digital edition:

If you go with print copy, please also consider a PDF version. Shipping can be more expensive than the item depending on where in the world it is going.

So, the reason I would love a digital edition is for accessibility reasons. My vision is alright now, but when your magazine was originally coming out, I was blind and PDFs are generally inaccessible. Digital will also help with worldwide readership (eg. India, Nigeria, maybe even South Korea?!).

I am a fan of Substack. Have you considered this as an option?

I hereby promise a digital edition. Almost certainly PDF and probably also an epub. I will probably avoid Kindle altogether: I’m no fan of Amaz*n and there was clear (and commendable) pushback in the survey.

A paid tier Substack might be a good solution for a digital edition too, but I worry about the content being mediated by an admittedly very good and seemingly less-evil-than-usual social media company; I’ll look into it more sincerely.

I do love it when our stuff travels far into the world and I have always tried to be inclusive with cultural references for that reason. Shipping costs are of course a barrier so this is a strong argument for a digital edition. As a point of fact though, I have already “broken” South Korea with Escape Everything! in translation!


Probably not. Then again I’m always about five years late to these things.

I already retired at 50, so I’m interested in living the lifestyle vs preparing to escape

Enjooooy yourself, while you’re still in the pink. Congrats! The balance of escape tactics to good life material will be baked into the cake.

I would love to subscribe to a magazine even abroad (I’m in Germany) and would also bring it to our local meeting group of minimalists and escapologists of all sorts for discussions.

Thank you. I wonder now if there’s a way for me to encourage this sort of socialising? Then again, people will always self-organise.

If published twice per year, I would love the issues to come out at the brink of holiday seasons, e.g in late June and in mid-December. This kind of reading suits the holidays well.

That’s a nice thought and probably conducive to the magazine being read rather than merely purchased. For my own creative satisfaction, I’d like to get Issue One (or 14, I haven’t yet chosen a numbering scheme) out earlier than June. I was thinking April and October for a schedule. That’s a fairly arbitrary decision though and those months are admittedly quite busy in the world of work because of the shape of the financial year. I’ll give it some thought. Maybe 2023 can be April and December but then June/December in future years.

As far as content goes, I just love the magazine although I definitely agree with some of your recent blog posts that a more “timely” magazine would feel like a cool counterpoint to the timelessness of the original run. Let’s say 50:50 timely to timeless ratio? It’d be cool to have a mix of the blog-style content and the timeless guest essays in the magazine.

That’s a good idea and I’ll probably run with it. I don’t want to lose the in-depth essay style we had in the original run, but I do want more magazine-style items this time around like letters and columns. I won’t allow such frivolity to take over though, so 50/50 might be a healthy balance.

Include news and stories of escape, idling, FIRE etc. from outside the UK and North America (by preference from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and South America)!

I can confirm today that there will be a quite special idling column. Escape is an important theme and I’d like to be more firmly anchored to it than we were in the past: less mission creep. That Emily Dickinson quote is my touchstone. And FIRE really is essential, isn’t it? I have ideas about that. As to more internationalism, yes please. I’ll see what I can do.

I wonder if it would be good to send escapologists a few free copies to leave in libraries, doctors’ waiting rooms etc? I think it’s important to preach not only to the converted…

Yes and no. I do see the importance of spreading certain messages, such as those of minimalism or the “you don’t have to do what you’re told” revelation. On the other hand, I’ve been quite careful to develop a receptive audience so that I don’t have to expose myself to the draining and unproductive attitude of trolls. It’s amazing how violently some people can react to, for example, the light suggestion that they curb their consumer privileges. Intelligent and gentle people use libraries though, so maybe that would be safe.

Page 3 featuring Wringham

Is that you, dear? If not: excellent.

Will you be using TeX / ConTeXt for the typesetting? I’d like to read / publish an article by you about your use of ConTeXt for our Dutch NTG journal.

I know you! Alas, we will not be using TeX this time around. I’ll be cheaply imitating the style of the old magazine to an extent though. This is partly due to my own temporal and technical limitations: I enjoyed using TeX in the original run but it was done in close collaboration with a particular friend who is not on board anymore (we’re still great friends, he just doesn’t want to typeset the mag this time).

Thrilled that NE is coming back. Regarding YouTube and podcast etc, be wary of spreading yourself too thinly. You have limited resources and should not feel the need to obey the whims of the baying crowd to go multi-channel. The old magazine was a perfect distillation of intelligence and irreverence. If you can capture that again, with a contemporary edge, you’ll have done your readers a great service. Good luck!

You’re right, of course. For now I do not think we’ll be branching out into YouTube or podcasts. I did receive an offer of editing assistance from a wonderful reader who also happens to be a professional video editor though, so at least one barrier has been lifted were I to do something for YouTube. This said, YouTube was the least popular format discussed in the survey: it wasn’t unpopular but the readership prefers blogs and podcasts. If we ever venture into audio or video formats, it’ll be in our second year. The limited resources you mention will be focused on delivering two issues of the print mag in 2023.

Can we send you articles for consideration?

Maybe send ideas before articles. I don’t want people to write 2,000 words that I have to spike. Prompted by your question, I have updated the contributor guidelines.

Call your mother.

Leave me alone, mummy. I’m playing with my friends.

Just found out after years you still exist even though I’ve been on the email list

Yes, that was a Mailchimp problem. Readers reported that the newsletter was going to their spam. Thanks to the recent move to Substack, more people seem to be receiving, reading and clicking. Phew. Welcome back.


Thanks everyone. If you didn’t complete the survey, you still can. If you just want to make one comment or suggestion instead, you can do it (less anonymously) by email or beneath this post.

If you’d like to support the work of bringing the magazine back to life, please buy The Good Life for Wage Slaves (for which I now get 100% of the money) and, of course, send caffeine.


I’ve used this verse of Emily Dickinson a few times in print but it deserves its own post.

I never hear the word “Escape”
Without a quicker blood,
A sudden expectation –
A flying attitude!

Happy New Year, Escapologists!

An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 69. 2022 Review.

Here we are again, thank goodness. Another annual report to my imaginary shareholders.

The year found me feeling far happier than in recent years. 2020‘s lockdowns, 2021‘s covid problems and house move, years of catching up after the visa struggle are all behind us now and I find myself on the other side of a recovery process. I felt extremely creative this year and hungry for action. Next year, all being well, will be even more gorgeous.

Here goes. Read the rest of this entry »

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