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New Escapologist : November 2023
To plough your own furrow benefits not just yourself, but the whole world
Welcome to New Escapologist, the cheerful monthly newsletter from the magazine of the same name.
Our brand new Issue 15 is almost ready to go. We’re just waiting on a printer’s proof. We settled on “experiments in living” as a subtitle after narrowly rejecting “into the greenwood” and “a cell of good living,” both of which are concepts in the text but “experiments” seemed to be the strongest theme. Plus, the cover image is red, which would jar with the word “greenwood.” This is the kind of exclusive behind-the-scenes insight you get with this newsletter! But speaking of covers…
In the meantime, have I told you about our back issue archive? You can buy Issues 1-13 of New Escapologist (the complete original run before the relaunch this year) in PDF format for £25. That’s a decade of Escapological writing over 1,160 pages! Lunacy. Buying the archive keeps it in circulation and makes a direct financial contribution to our production fund. Here’s where to get it.
Oh! In last month’s newsletter, I said I was seeking distribution to get the magazine into certain shops. Amazingly, I’ve been successful and I’m meeting the distributor tomorrow to learn how this all works. Actual news will follow at some point about where you can buy the magazine in your local or localish area.
Your friend and neighbour,
Editor, New Escapologist
Diary Update: The Hosteller
There are two new entries in my ongoing diary at the New Escapologist blog. They’re both about hostelling, which seems to be my current obsession. I can’t get over the frugal, cheerfully minimalist opportunities for travel they provide. It was always so obvious, but I suppose I eschewed the idea of hostelling out of squeamishness: the fear of bunking with strangers and forgoing the modest luxury of home or Airbnb. I can’t believe it took me so long to get over this silly attitude and to embrace the life promoted by hostelling. If you’re like I used to be I say: get over it! Book into a hostel! You’ll have a whale of a time. My experiences of a hostel in Paris are in Part 74 of the diary while some very brief descriptions of an Amsterdam hostel boat are in Part 75.
We scraped together what savings we had, took out multiple loans and eventually managed to secure a boat mortgage (they’re a thing), before finally buying our narrowboat in July 2021. We spent the summer doing her up: I learned to tile and managed to figure out the plumbing, Nige laid down new pallet-wood floors, and my mum helped us paint. In September, we moved aboard full-time. Our daughter was born the following August.
This is something I think about a lot. We reluctantly escaped the rental market too and it required a similar sort of pairing down. We lost our spare room and had to move to a less lovely part of town.
If you’re renting and are appalled by how much rents have shot up and if you have any chance of escaping, you should definitely think about ownership if you can find a way. It pains me to sound so much Hilaire Belloc though: it doesn’t agree with my politics and I always enjoyed renting, but needs must as the devil drives his landlordly gold-plated sports car over your face.
Whenever I’ve look into house boats as a happy alternative to bricks-and-mortar ownership, the mooring (i.e. the parking place) is always a problem. Faye explains:
We’re what’s called “continuous cruisers”, which means we move our boat to a new mooring roughly every two weeks. It doesn’t mean we flit between a few favourite places: the rules state that we must “genuinely navigate the waters”, and I’ve heard of boaters’ licences being revoked because they haven’t covered enough distance.
Luckily, continuous cruising has benefits: moving every fortnight means we’re always bumping into boaters we know, which is lovely, and the sense of freedom is unparalleled.
According to her website, Faye is “working on a memoir about my life aboard a 60 foot narrowboat,” which I for one am looking forward to.
Give My Child an Ikea Desk and Twelve Hours a Day of Sedentary Typing
Thanks to reader N for sharing this passage from Dave Eggers’ Heroes of the Frontier.
It’s nominally about parenting but really it’s about how to spend a good life versus the violence of social expectation:
She began to conceive a new theory of parenting, where the goal was not the achieving of a desired result. The object is not to raise a child for some future outcome, no! Times like these, together in the pines amid the fading light, as the kids run through the long grass, her son gravely teaching himself archery while her daughter tries to induce some self-injury, these moments alone were the object. Josie felt, fleetingly, that she could die having achieved such a day. Get to a place like this, get to a moment like this, and that alone is the object. Or it could be the object. A new way of thinking. Stretch some of these days together and that’s all one could want or expect. Raising children was not about perfecting them or preparing them for job placement. What a hollow goal! Twenty-two years of struggle for what – your child sits inside at an Ikea table staring into a screen while outside the sky changes, the sun rises and falls, hawks float like zeppelins. This was the common criminal pursuit of all contemporary humankind. Give my child an Ikea desk and twelve hours a day of sedentary typing. This will mean success for me, them, our family, our lineage. She would not pursue this. She would not subject her children to this. They would not seek these specious things, no. It was only about making them loved in a moment in the sun.
This is from Wendy Carlos, genius composer of electronic music:
The greatest thing we’ve got going in our culture is our eccentrics. I was once embarrassed by my eccentricities but now I value them.
In other words: Be different. Don’t be afraid. To plough your own furrow benefits not just yourself, but the whole world. To stand apart is not to turn your back on society. You’re at least the control group, at best the great experiment.
Out of the Mouth of Babes
Thanks to Reader S for sharing this with us. This YouTuber talks about economics and the stock market, but I like the way she defends the younger woman who complains about the reality of full-time work:
Clearly in a state of distress, the younger woman laments:
I know I’m probably being so dramatic and annoying but this is my first job, like, my first 9-5 job after college and I’m [working] in person and I’m commuting in the city and it takes me fucking forever to get there.
She explains how she can’t afford to live closer to work because city rents are so high, how she doesn’t have time to cook properly or work out or be with friends or find a partner, how it’s all just too much.
Predictably a lot of people in the comments call her a whiner, that she’s spoiled, that Gen Z are lazy, and “welcome to the world”-type refrains.
But… she’s right! She’s absolutely right to be distressed about the demands suddenly placed in her lap by the 9-5. And she’s right to be dismayed that this is considered normal, is the best system we’ve come to as a society. Only a liar or a moron (or, of course, a beneficiary) would disagree. And given the state of the economy (by which I mainly mean the housing and cost of living crises) it’s truer than ever. It’s her generation who should be complaining the loudest.
The economics YouTuber says:
This is a very common experience. When you join the workforce you end up feeling all of these things this girl is talking about. It’s a completely reasonable response to overwhelming stressors.
Which is obviously correct. She goes on to talk about the labour movement and all sorts of interesting things, so it’s worth a watch. But I really just wanted to say how impressed I am that Gen Z can see through the bullshit so easily and that there are fellow dissenting voices willing act in solidarity, calling this bullshit situation out.
What the Gen Z girl doesn’t say is how she’s supposed to be grateful for this lot as well, that she’s supposed to be the grateful inheritor of a clean and easy-going technocracy. She’s not aloud to be unhappy, not allowed to work grudgingly. As we all know, that sort of daily masking is exhausting.
Host Fernando is a lovely and attentive guy and I think I did quite well thanks to his questions. I explained New Escapologist accurately and with good humour as well as explaining the appeal of a less work-driven lifestyle. I also had a cold at the time, so my answers are all baritone and vocal-fried. Enjoy!
The whole episode (and indeed the show) is worth a listen but the bit about New Escapologist starts at 8:34
Shortly after last month’s newsletter went out, I got a good-natured email from author Joshua Glenn:
Subject: Au contraire, mon ami!
Naturellement, j’ai consulté De Certeau lors de la rédaction de mon petit livre !
My claim that “perruque” does not appear in his glossaries was erroneous. Look! It’s right there:
Needless to say, I have grovelled accordingly.
Oh well. Let’s all celebrate my embarrassing mistake by reading about Josh’s Adventurer’s Glossary.
Letter to the Editor: At the Other End of the Age Scale
Reader O writes:
At the other end of the age scale to you, at 76 I have discovered liberation!
I am a wood turner but thanks to long covid can no longer make the huge pieces I so enjoyed creating.
My professional lathe and massive chunks of wood have been looking at me balefully for the last three and a half years, so I have given them all away to a father and son who seem absolutely thrilled. In return they are setting me up with an excellent dinky lathe and cleaned out a bit of my workshop. I have also given away all my exhibition stands and plate racks to a very grateful recipient. I feel completely liberated, especially as everything has found a good home!
I’ve attached an image of some of my work.
I was sad to hear that your crafting practice has come to an end, but it certainly sounds liberating in many good ways and your generosity in passing the flame to another generation is lovely to hear about.
Congratulations on a working life well spent and it’s good to know that you can still tinker and enjoy creative satisfaction on a smaller scale.
Do you know something? I think that’s all for this newsletter. Thank you for reading and thanks especially for ordering your copy of the new issue and maybe even picking up our digital back issue archive too. Those are your calls to action this month, my pigeons. Now fly, pretty and pink, over the city streets, leaving your stinky amonious droppings on all and sundry.
Your wide-striding pal,
Editor, New Escapologist