Choice and Control

From a decent article about Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the Observer today:

The only basic income pilot currently running in the UK is a Welsh government scheme for 600 young care leavers. Each is receiving £1,600 a month (£1,280 after tax), for 18 months, so that researchers can evaluate the scheme’s benefits. An interim report suggests recipients feel “a greater sense of choice and control over the future”.

Well yeah.

Having to scrounge and toil for the essentials of life is neither necessary or right. If society were better organised, none of the suffering inherent to the jobs system would exist. Instead, we’d have, as the article suggests, “choice and control.”

Choice and control! Natural gifts snatched from us by an unjust and increasingly rampant capitalism.

Give us the basics, oh leaders of the world, so we can once again have our choice and control. You are powerful and you are capable of granting us this meagre request. Give us the basics we require to live with dignity — by which I mean the ability to spend our days how we like — and we’ll never speak ill of your ugly orange asses again.

Or to put it more eloquently, Dr. Neil Howard at University of Bath says:

I think we need to be calling for basic income on the basis of a sense of shared morality, because economic insecurity is grim. It’s empirically damaging and it’s based on historical injustices that are translated into present inequalities. So there’s a very strong case for redistributive basic income right now, irrespective of whether or not the machines are coming.

Currently, we do not work because we love it; we work because we have to. This would change under UBI. Unwanted, unfair, badly-paid jobs would practically vanish overnight.


New Escapologist has been advocating for UBI for years. Get our new Issue 16 in print or digital formats today.

There’s No Law That Says You Must Work

Reader C sends us this quote from the commercial release of Richard Linklater’s Slacker script.

Slacker was an important antiwork film in the ’90s. As much as anything it created the “slacker culture” that gave us the Idler.

Anyway here’s the quote from director Richard Linklater:

Work isn’t mandatory in our society. There’s no law that says you must work. You can get by if you can do without. If you’re willing not to have […] a car, nice living conditions, nice clothes, and eat out every night; if you’re willing to go, “I just want to work part-time or not at all and spend most of my time making music, writing, reading, or watching movies,” you can consciously drop out. There’s still enough freedom left where you can manoeuvre.

Let’s pause for a second here to remember that the quote comes from 1992. It is more difficult now — not legally but economically and administratively — not to work. But it’s still very possible and what he says is still true.

By “nice living conditions” he presumably means expensive living conditions. I have nice living conditions — clean, easy, happy, centrally urban — on very little money. Friends in cheaply-built but expensive-to-rent housing do not, in my opinion, have “nice living conditions.” They’re a trap.

The freebies and hand-me-downs in this society are probably the best in the world. For example, I was never really a student at the University of Texas, but that’s a great facility. I’d get my library card for thirty bucks a year and have access to one of the bigger libraries in the South. Just being a citizen, you can take advantage of a lot of things in this culture.

This is still true. A public library card costs zero bucks. A university library, if they have a special reader pass or similar, still costs a similar amount to Linklater’s time. The best things in life are very low-cost or even free: walking, reading, being with people, playing music, writing, domestic futzing.

As the man says, “you can consciously drop out” because, truly, even 20 years later, there’s still no law demanding that you work and “still enough freedom left where you can manoeuvre.”

Elsewhere, in 1995, Linklater said:

I think the cheapest definition [of a slacker] would be someone who’s just lazy, hangin’ out, doing nothing. I’d like to change that to somebody who’s not doing what’s expected of them. Somebody who’s trying to live an interesting life, doing what they want to do, and if that takes time to find, so be it.


The brand new Issue 16 is available now in print and digital editions.

Letter to the Editor: Sabbatical

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


Reader A writes:

Hi Robert,

Thought I’d share that I’ve finally managed to commence a controlled escape from wage slavery in the form of a 12-month sabbatical starting in October, from which I may or may not return. An ideal option for a ‘feartie’ like myself. 

Both of your books have played no small part in different ways with the first opening my mind up to escaping as a realistic possibility that should be planned for, the second helping to devise tactics to endure my own Concrete Island whilst putting the plan into action. A massive thanks!

Love the new issues. [After reading the books,] there’s some added bonus in receiving the latest copies in the post to then take on the train for the dreary commute!


Feartie nothing. A sabbatical is an excellent and time-honoured escape route. There must be something in the water, actually. Another reader wrote to tell me about a 6-month sabbatical they’re taking, and a hard-working friend of mine in Leicester is taking a year off too. Long may it continue.

Maybe your sabbatical will contain the seed of a longer-term escape. Maybe, on a quiet night at the movies or under the stars, you’ll have the epiphany required to extend the break — either for a while or indefinitely. But it doesn’t have to be a gateway to greater things if you don’t want it to be or if that’s impractical. Let your sabbatical be its own adventure. Twelve months is a phenomenal result. Nice one.

Ode to a Dressing Gown

As many of my friends will know, I spend a lot of time in a dressing gown.

I fancy it’s Sherlock Holmes-ish but I’m probably just being a bum. Then again, so was he.

When people say things about wearing shirts and ties or Rosie the Riveter-style workwear at home to help them feel fresh or to be productive, I can’t relate to the sentiment at all.

Each to their own, but being able to wear a dressing gown all day is long one of the main advantages of not going to work.

A dressing gown is practically a friend for life. So far as I can remember, I’ve only ever had three:

1. an Aquafresh-striped one when I was a small boy.

2. an appropriately moody black one as a teenager, which was made of lovely pure cotton. It was probably my fave of the three, but as I grew the dressing gown did not. It soon has a Zapp Brannigan effect and had to be replaced for decency’s sake.

3. the one I have now.

The one I have now has big pockets, which means I can carry stuff around. At present, those pockets contain a handkerchief (as it always does), some anti-itch cream (I’m having an eczema time), a pencil, and an iPhone 6s.


The brand new Issue 16 is available now in print and digital editions.

The Workers Stopped Coming In

The solution should be to turn these offices — now largely empty after the pandemic — into homes. Two problems solved, right?

A quibble about the podcast discussed in the previous post (and of other media) is a moment when the host said that:

during the pandemic, the workers stopped coming in

That’s true, but the phrasing makes it sound as if the workers just decided not to come to work anymore. As if they stubbornly said, en-masse somehow, “we’re not going there anymore.”

It’s a framing I’ve seen elsewhere in the media too, usually in business-oriented press. “How do we get people to come back to work?” they ask.

Workers didn’t “stop coming in.” They were instructed by the government not to come in. To prevent loss of life.

If workers had the ability to decide — individually or collectively — to “stop coming in” and to work from home where it’s safer and easier and cheaper and better, they would have started doing so in about 1997.


Escape the office forever and don’t look back. Buy the brand new edition of our mag.

101 Uses for a Dead Office

There’s a design podcast I sometimes listen to called 99% Invisible.

A recent episode called Office Space looks at the challenge of repurposing useless, ugly, obsolete, recently-deceased office buildings.

There’s a housing crisis in every major city and a surplus of offices. It’s almost as if our priorities have been completely backwards for decades.

The solution should be to turn these offices — now largely empty after the pandemic — into homes. Two problems solved, right?

Well, I knew it wouldn’t be that simple because, according to all the design and urban planning videos I watch, zoning laws and corrupt car-prioritsing by-laws cause all manner of problems when you try to turn one urban development into another. And, because I live in Glasgow, I was also aware of the more inherent problem of building homes without proper neighbourhoods to support them.

Neighbourhoods evolve organically. Shops and homes and post offices and third spaces pop up like wildflowers once the initial seeds are sewn. It’s wild, human nature. When you dump a huge housing development in the middle of nowhere (as they did with Glasgow in the 1960s), the neighbourhood doesn’t evolve naturally and they aren’t pleasant places to live. Through boredom and isolation, they become crime hotspots and public health crises.

Office blocks aren’t generally in neighbourhoods. My old office on Concrete Island was a particularly bad example, stranded in a wasteland behind a snakes’ nest of motorways and A-Roads. But even better offices are in pretty shit areas. Go for a walk in one on the weekend (or on Christmas Day, like I did) and you could hear a pin drop. It isn’t fit for humans [now].

Still, it’s better to reuse a building if possible than to demolish and start over. So that’s what some developers are trying to do, according to this podcast. I enjoyed hearing about the various problems and solutions. I want them to work.

Anyway, an interesting nugget is that older office buildings, pre-War, convert relatively well into homes because they have windows.

Did you hear that? Offices used to have windows! And not sarcastic full-wall one-way-mirror windows. Or indeed Microsoft Windows. Just the usual sort of human-scale windows that might make people feel comfortable and at-home.

It’s apparently the post-War builds of the 1950s onwards that present the biggest challenge. The reason? Wait for it.

Air conditioning and fluorescent lights.

Air conditioning and fluorescent lights replaced windows. Oh brave new world.


Escape the office forever and don’t look back. Buy the brand new edition of our mag.

Issue 16: Available Now

It’s here!

Stock of Issue 16 has arrived at Escape Towers. We’ve already begun to ship them out.

Subscriber copies will be plopping onto UK doormats imminently. International copies will take a little longer but are already shipping.

The digital edition is available for instant purchase and download.

And, as previously reported, there’s a little launch event in Glasgow on Tuesday 25th June.

About Issue 16:

The new issue is subtitled Footloose and Fancy-Free. It looks at mobility, travel, movement, being fleet of foot. Important Escapological concepts, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It features an interview with eccentric art pop legend Momus (pictured below) who seems to live wherever he likes (Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Osaka, Edinburgh, Montreal, London, New York, Athens) without concern for those practicalities that trouble regular mortals. Our other interview (we like to do two) is with journalist Lydia Swinscoe who lives semi-nomadically, moving from home to home and city to city quite spontaneously. When we spoke she was in Sri Lanka and her next stop… who knows?

There’s Escapological writings on travel and internationalism, loads of stuff from me, and columns from McKinley Valentine, Tom Hodgkinson, Apala Chowdhury, David Cain and more. Tom’s column is a particularly good one, telling the story of his walking club with his old schoolfriends, which I’m not sure he’s written about anywhere before.

There are Escapological film reviews for the first time, a particularly amusing Workplace Woe, a great letter from a financially irresponsible Escapologist, deep reviews of new and old books (including Jenny Odell’s incredible How to do Nothing), musings on the Old [pre-social media] Web, and our unusual “review of a walk,” this time by Canada’s Tom Gibbs from his honeymoon in Lisbon. That cover image is from Lisbon too, actually, but those are my feet and boots, not Gibbs’.

Anyway, it’s a very strong issue and here’s where to bag your treasure.

We Are the 85%!

Remember the “we are the 99%!” mantra of the Occupy movement? Maybe we should borrow (okay, scav) this.

85% hate our jobs according to a 2022 Gallup poll. This is an increase on the 80% I reported in my book, Escape Everything!, in 2016.

At the time, many people found my figure ridiculous. It wasn’t. It was found in research. And now similar research suggests the figure has increased.

Another way of putting it is that only 15% of people actually like their jobs. These will be people working (and doing well enough to survive or already independently wealthy) in the arts, people who make a genuine difference in direct social services, evil people at the top of the tree who do whatever the like, and (I would say) idiots in denial.

Anyway, I don’t have a job (so I’m in the 5% or something) but Escapologists who still work against their will could start saying:

“WE ARE THE 85%”

Put it on your protest signs. Wear it on a badge. Print it on the coffee cup you drink from in the office.

When people ask what it means, tell them.

Tell them about our magazine is you like. But mainly tell them what it means to be in the 85%. That you go to work not because you love it but because you have to.


Issue 16. Shipping tomorrow.

Take the Wednesday Off

Stock of Issue 16 will arrive at Escape Towers tomorrow. I’ll ship the subscriber and pre-ordered copies immediately. The envelopes are already printed.

And you know what? Let’s party.

If you’re in the Glasgow area (or can get there easily and responsibly), we’ll meet at the new Third Eye bar at the CCA on Sauchiehall Street.

Tuesday 25th June from 7pm. Yes, that’s a work night. Why not take the Wednesday off? And then never go back?

We haven’t booked the room or anything so grand. We’ll just get a biggish table in the back section (surrounded by the new murals) and let merriment commence. I can’t imagine more than ten people will turn up, so this will be nice and cosy.

The CCA is the perfect place for this get-together. It’s where we first launched New Escapologist in 2008 (it was actually the second issue) and it’s a proper hub of the local art scene. The new bar is run by the venue (rather than a private tenant) so any money spent on beer or snacks goes directly into supporting said art scene. I approve of this.

If you bought a copy of Issue 16 in advance, let me know and you could collect it in person. If you’re yet to buy a copy and would like to buy a copy, bring a tenner in cash.

I’ll have some copies of I’m Out and The Good Life for Wage Slaves with me too. Also a tenner or free if I’m drunk.

Informal. Easy. A hang.

Come along. All welcome.


I like parakeets. Perhaps its because green is my favourite colour. Or because they look a little bit exotic here in Scotland. Or perhaps it’s because they’re Escapologists.

I assumed their being so far north was a symptom of climate change. They look like hot weather birds after all. But apparently the Himalayas is their natural habitat and they’ve been in the UK since at least the 1970s.

A naturalist writes:

Over the years, I’ve heard many myths about how they got here in the first place. “They were released by a stoned Jimi Hendrix, who let them out in London’s Carnaby Street…”; “They escaped from the film set of The African Queen…”; “They made a bid for freedom when their cage broke during the Great Storm of 1987…”

And the truth?

the parakeets’ presence here is rather a letdown: as popular cagebirds, it was inevitable some would escape.

That’s not a letdown at all! Either way, they’re Escapologists. Godspeed, parakeets.


Issue 16 is taking longer to print than predicted but it’s honestly almost there. Stock is due at Escape Towers on June 19th and I’ll be shipping them on that very day. Envelopes are already printed for subscribers and pre-orders. Not among their number yet? Here’s where to go.

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