Two Month’s Hospitality: What Henry Learned Waiting Tables

Last week, I finished waiting tables at a burger joint. Yes, I officially threw in the towel. Two jobs down in three months, it’s confirmed, I’m a quitter.

I’d taken the job because I realised without one, I couldn’t keep telling everyone I was a down-and-out writer. Like, there was no way anyone was going to believe me when I tried to rewrite Down and Out in Paris and London, after lucking out and convincing one of my rich friends to fund the novel.

No, I needed real world experiences. Experiences away from bright offices, dual monitor setups, misguided aspirations and meetings about the merits of shared calendars. (I’m lying, I actually needed the money)

And, after two months I can attest, the experience was revelatory. Definitely worth it.

First and foremost, it taught me that the people who work in restaurants are rad and lovely people. They’re not even mean when they realise you’re the worst goddamn waiter they’ve ever met.

So, to save you from going through the same harrowing struggles that will lay the foundations for my bestselling book, Waiter to Hater, I’ve spent this Friday afternoon writing down everything I’ve learned from working in the hospitality industry:

1. It helps if you know what you’re serving people

I’m proud to say that while I was a waiter, I got a lot of people’s orders wrong. Probably more orders than anyone has ever got wrong (no, I’m not that cool)!

Even when I wasn’t getting people’s orders wrong, I was at least pretending I had, by incorrectly announcing what I’d brought to the table.

Here’s a gem of story, to help you understand. By way of background, some guy at table 67 had ordered a milkshake. I picked up said milkshake from the bar, and proceeded to take it to his table.

Henry: “Sir, here’s your lager.”

Discerning patron: “But I ordered a milkshake.”

*Look down at the glass. Yes, it’s clearly a milkshake*

Henry: “Oh, yeah, it’s a milkshake. Look, it’s milkshake coloured, in a milkshake glass and has a straw. I said it was a lager because, um, I have a drinking problem.”

Discerning customer: “Hmm, I’m not sure that looks like a milkshake.”

Henry: “Why not taste it and see?”

Discerning patron: “Ok.”

Discerning patron tastes the milkshake.

Discerning patron: “Hmmm.” Takes another sip. “Hmm, yes, that’s definitely a lager.”

At which point, I proceeded to take the milkshake back to the bar, told the bartender I needed a milkshake, not a lager, to which the bartender replied, but that’s definitely a milkshake.

So I had to go back to the discerning customers table, and tell him it was definitely a milkshake.

It’s as if I was doing it on purpose, you know, to make him look stupid.

I think some people thought scenarios like this were a routine I’d invented. It wasn’t, I just couldn’t see very well without my glasses on.

Lesson 1: If you’re a waiter and you don’t know what something is, just leave it at the bar and get someone else to take it for you. It’s best that you never talk to customers, because they’ll always think you’re trying to patronise them.

2. If someone’s sick, you’ve made an honest tip

There was an eating challenge at the burger joint. 

Customers had 15 minutes to eat an ice-cream float covered in chilli, some peppers stuffed with couscous and chilli, and um, a five litre box of sweet potato fries covered in chilli. I mean, it’s at least 26 minutes worth of food.

If someone managed to eat this monstrous concoction in fifteen minutes or less (and I mean all of it), they wouldn’t have to pay for their meal. 

You guessed it, the prize was free stomach ache!

Anyway, occasionally, people would request to do the challenge, and just to make sure no one was cheating, waiting staff had to stand there and watch them gorge themselves.

On one occasion, I was trusted to time someone competing in the challenge. By the end of it, had a £10 tip.

How do you ask?

Was it because I was so great at timing? Cheering the boy on? Telling his friend not to call him a fat little piggy? 

Not at all! It was because after attempting the eating challenge, the poor lad went into the men’s room and was sick everywhere.

He was so sick that there was vomit on the bathroom walls.

Now, I’m not complaining about sick. I mean, I regularly drink too much, and have to clean up mysterious vomit, that I assume is deposited by housemates next to my bed, almost every morning.

But, when the customer ordered another double JD and coke, he must have seen me walk out of the bathroom wearing rubber gloves and a look of disdain. 

He promptly dropped £10 on the table and left.

Lesson 2: People being sick = tips! To subsidise your wage, you need to make people sick. Then make sure they know you’re the one who cleaned all the vomit up! It’s genius.

3. Stag dos promote nondiscrimination

A lot of people on stag dos booked tables at the restaurant, and then arrived drunk and on the lookout for hot dogs. 

Sometimes, I was allowed to take their orders. 

When doing so, I often discovered a lot of inebriated men, who liked to ask me to perform fellatio on them. I guess it’s great, they must think I look pretty, and they’re much more into experimentation than they probably are when they’re sober.

Lesson 3: Drunk men in groups really care about the service, and don’t make judgements based on gender.

4. It’s all about the booths man

Did you know restaurants that only have booths (you know, those American-type diner seats), get way more customers. 

The most common thing you’ll hear when interviewing people about what makes a restaurant is, “God! I’d never go to a restaurant if I couldn’t sit in a booth. I mean, come on. That’s the only reason I go out.

Seating at the restaurant I was working at was made up of a mixture of booths and not so booth-ey seats.

Sometimes I had to take people to their seats. 

Customers routinely became irate when they were led to the not-so-booth-ey seats.

Lesson 4: People really care about where they sit. Why? Because they’re stupid.

5. “When you gaze long into [a restaurant], the [restaurant] also gazes into you…

Before Nietzsche started working at DC Comics, he worked in a restaurant. How else can you explain that overused quote?

Having read a lot of comics, I can tell you what it means.

If you work somewhere too long, it has a habit of becoming part of you, and when you have a bun toaster embedded in your abdomen, it’s hard to remember how magical a trip out to dinner once was.

Instead, spectres will swirl around whispering, “Clean the menus. Stop those tables from wobbling. Did you take an Amex payment from the couple sitting at the bar. Why didn’t they pay service? How did you get so much sauce everywhere when all you had to do was squeeze the bag and try to get the sauce in the little pots for the customers.”

Working in a restaurant, even for a very short amount of time, made me feel like they’re kind of like DIsneyland. You know, like it’s all fake, and however much I want to take the adolescent man in a disney princess suit back to my shared accommodation, there’s a certain type of sweat that you can just never get out of your sheets.

Every time I now go into a restaurant, I just see cardboard boxes. And how part of my bill’s paying for the privilege of sitting on them.

Lesson 5: If you still get butterflies when you think about going to a restaurant, don’t start working in one.

6. Government intervention doesn’t always help individuals

London’s expensive and working in a burger restaurant doesn’t pay that well. I mean, it pays better than some other jobs, but it’s still not great. 

One of the biggest challenges my colleagues spoke about was zero hour contracts, and how your hours (despite the best efforts of management) were speculative. In practice, this meant you could be booked to work eight hours, but as the restaurant wasn’t very busy, you’re sent home early, and paid less. 

Zero hour contracts aren’t the problem I’m writing about though. I’m writing about zero hours contracts and mandated 20 minute breaks, for every six hours worked.

In practice, breaks could be given based on speculative hours, which didn’t materialise. So, while you would have previously expected to have earned 4 hours pay for four hours work, this quickly becomes three hours, 40 minutes pay, because it seemed like you were going to be staying later, and were asked to take a break. 

While there’s no doubt that everyone should receive breaks (I mean, we live in the west), when you’re already having trouble paying rent, forcing people to have their pay cut by 20 minutes, could easily be interpreted as a kick in the teeth.

Lesson 6: People working in restaurants really need to pull their fingers out. They should all be working much harder to reply to all public Government consultations on labour market reform.

7. The Sandman’s a vengeful bastard

Over the last two months, I frequently found myself volunteering or writing something for someone during the day, then going to work in the evening. 

If I’m honest, the flexibility was great, allowing me to focus on what I really wanted to do during the day. However, I found that working shifts really messes with your sleep pattern.

Although the latest I ever finished was 12:45, I routinely found myself getting home at 2:00am, proceeding to eat, then going to bed at 3:30am, to repeat the same cycle, often for eight or nine days running.

It’s something that’s easy to forget when working a nine to five. Even if you’re working less hours than someone on a forty hour week, if they’re sporadic, it can make you even less productive in your free time.

Lesson 7: If you’re working shifts, stop watching TV in bed. You’re never going to get that time back

8. A lot of people seem really bored with their lives

I served a lot of couples. 

They sat in booths, drank too much and stared at their phones. 

I’m not suggesting that I don’t do the same thing, but watching it made me feel pretty sad.

It was as if it was a weekend cycle: 

Get out of bed, take the train to London, go the restaurant, buy too much food, drink too many cocktails, get a little passive aggressive with each other, feel like you’ve done something for the day, get the train back to Kent, die.

Lesson 8: Weekends as a couple living outside of London can be bleak. Point me in the direction of the nearest bus stop, because my bones need a’ breakin’.

9. Whatever you do, it’s hard not to let it dominate your life

Whatever you do, when you spend all day with the same people, doing the same things, it’s hard not to repeat the same conversations, and it’s difficult not to get hung up on little changes to things.

Whether it’s a dish that’s been removed from a menu, a lime in coke, or the appointment of a new Director of HR, the conversations follow the same structure and the revelations are the same. 

Lesson 9: A lot of things about work stay the same, whatever your occupation.

Maybe working’s just not for me.

My Very First Guide to Urinal Etiquette

Going to the men’s room is scary,” thus spake the foremost urinal expert.

Don’t feel ashamed. He’s an expert and it is.

So, as one of the foremost pillars of the community, today, I’m going to deconstruct one enormous restroom mystery, specifically, how you, yes you, can enjoy the fluid freedom of that porcelain wall: the urinal.

Shewees were invented to help men improve their aim when using urinals however as evidenced by most bathrooms, they are yet to saturate the market.

What’s a Urinal?

Apparently, the urinal is ‘a trough used to collect chewing gum, beer cans, urine and other assorted debris. The universal bastion of freedom.

They’ve been liberating men for centuries.


By allowing them to stand tall and proud while evacuating their bladders. You’ve always thought that it wouldn’t be possible to use one and be a proud specimen too.

Well, today I”m going to prove that you’re wrong and an idiot!

So let’s get to it! Here’s how to use a urinal.

1. Starting Out

In England, urinals are almost exclusively located in men’s restrooms. To find a urinal, you’ll have to venture into one.

My method of teaching is vocational, so for this to work you’re going to need to follow everything that I say, exactly.

If you’re not there already, get to your local pub, library, or place of work and find the men’s restroom.

Do it now.

Ok, so you’ve now found a restroom.

Stand in front of the door.

This bit can be intimidating, so before entering, I recommend that you do the following:

  • Take a deep breath, breathing freedom often involves pungent aromas
  • Imagine your father, mother, the state, or parental unit number four, looking down at you from heaven, brimming with pride
  • Celebrate your pioneer status. You’re about to set out into unchartered lands. If you succeed, academics of the future will probably upload videos about this great human feat

Now, with a tissue in hand for effect, kick open that restroom door and take your first step into the bathroom.

2. Locating the Urinal

Inside?! Great!

Now you need to identify the urinal.

It’s probably at the back.

There are different varieties so don’t be alarmed if it’s not what you expected.

I found some diagrams in a book which you may wish to reference during your expedition. If you’re on a road trip with children, it also doubles up as a great lure to help you abandon them at a service station.

pg. 15 of the AA, Lonely Truck Driver’s ‘Chronicles of the Road’

If you can’t immediately see the urinals, it could be because there are too many people in front of them. If this is the case, go over and check. Take a good look at what everyone’s doing; it’s a good way to assert your dominance.

Now that you’ve found the urinals, it’s time to find yours.

3. Finding the Urinal that’s Right for You

Everyone is different, so take some time to decide exactly which urinal is right for you.

When making the choice, you’ll want to consider this helpful advice.

When NOT to use that urinal:

  • You are not friends with the current user
  • The neighbouring urinal is occupied by someone bigger (taller and/or cooler) than you
  • The urinal is actually a person in disguise (arms and legs are the giveaway)

Dressing as a urinal is a traditional past-time for bankers. It seems to happen most frequently ahead of industry mandated drug tests. This is a picture of the Barclays’ CEO showing a group of interns how to do it properly!

When YOU CAN use that urinal:

  • The user is your friend (cross that stream now)
  • It’s vacant and decorated with an ‘Out of Order’ sign
  • The urinal block is free, or the other users are weedy and look like they’d be intimidated by your substantial might

4. Building Your Confidence / Getting Ready

Now you’ve found the urinal that’s right for you, you’ll want to start urinating!

But, be warned, this can be the most challenging part of the experience, so let’s cover an important issue.

Dealing with Avoidant Paruresis, or Shy Bladder

Avoidant Paruresis is a condition (that I definitely don’t suffer from) in which individuals find themselves unable to urinate in the real or imaginary presence of others. It’s particularly malignant in the public restrooms.

It’s a very personal issue, but I’ve found some great tips to help you overcome the condition:

  1. Drink more. The point of inebriation is normally a good time to enter the restroom.
  2. Seek moral support from strangers. Tell everyone around you that you suffer from shy bladder. Ask them to clap and cheer loudly when you start urinating.
  3. Practice with friends. Bumble Friends is a great way to meet new people who also suffer from Avoidant Paruresis. I think they’re the main people who use the app. Consider starting your own dedicated, collective restroom outing group. If not, go on Reddit or something.


Now that you no longer have shy bladder you’re almost ready to begin. However, before you break loose, to make the most of the experience, take a moment to consider some advanced techniques:

  • Are other people’s shoes within a splashable range? More importantly, are they wearing suede shoes? If you’ve found a pair standing next to you, you’re onto a winner! Don’t even aim for the urinal.
  • If other people are standing near you, are you fully appreciating their stream? When using the urinal, most people like to be watched. Make sure you bend down close and stare at the other user’s implement as much as possible.
  • Are people staring at you enough? If not, why not perform your very own rendition of Jawbreaker’s pop-punk classic, Fireman?

Finally, some tips for experts:

Would an imaginary or real targets elevate your experience?

With the help of a local school, I’ve developed some exciting targets that you’re more than welcome to use, free of charge to help make urinating more fun.

When using them, be sure to use the PCP method: Print, Cut & Position!

Targets can help you progress onto actual, living and breathing targets. How exciting! 

Now you’re ready to go!

Release the gates and realise your potential!

5. Finishing Up

Wow! You’ve now successfully used a urinal. Give yourself and your restroom comrades a pat on the back.

Now get the hell out of there.

When exiting don’t:

  • Wash your hands. Sinks in men’s restrooms are dirty and the magic of urinals means that you no longer need to wash your hands after urinating, ever again!
  • Look down at your bespeckled jeans. If you don’t draw attention to it, no one else will notice that you’ve got yourself wet.

If you have found this guide useful, please, send me a quick message.

I’d love to know where all the best urinals in London actually are and find them with you!

Hit or Swiss, or ‘How I Now Own Art’

Since 5:30am last Saturday, I’ve owned art.

It’s a special kind of art; functional, personalised and easily concealed in the breast pocket.

Portable art? How bizarre.

Sure, but portability makes it all the easier to rub it into peoples’ faces and yes, get ready, because I’m about to try to rub it in yours.

I mean, what else am I meant to do with it?

So, I’ll begin.

Before you, I declare myself a citizen of the cultural world. Yes, I am the proud owner of a Tom Sachs’ Swiss Passport.

Applause, it can wait, but please, there’s no need to conceal that look of awe (please don’t conceal it).

So, what is a Tom Sachs’ Swiss Passport?

Well curious, it’s a Swiss Passport issued by the American artist Tom Sachs.

And yes, just like you, before I had my very own, I was stumped by that question.

Anyway, art is what you make of it, so here’s what I’ve made of it:

  1. It looks and tastes just like a Swiss Passport. The cover’s red, carries a white cross (for surrender) and sheaths 40 pages. The flavour’s also pretty neutral.
  2. It’s definitely an official document. The intern who issued it to me said so. Yes, it officially recognised by the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Can you think of a more distinguished and dependable issuing authority within two miles of Mayfair?
  3. It’s a guarantee of safe cultural passage. As a recognised, official document, it must allow me, the holder, to traverse, transcend and even enter cultural phenomena. Yes, I shall no longer be turned away from Sushi Samba for wearing jeans.
  4. It’s a form of identification. To get one, I had to surrender extremely personal information (dates of birth of previous sexual partners, favourite breakfast cereals, alignment, etc), information that was then punched by typewriter, directly onto the information page. That information, protected forever by strips of sticky-back plastic. Now, I’m pretty sure I can use it to confirm that my tastes are truly exceptional (no comment, Coco-Pops and lawful-good; duh).
  5. It’s super rare. There are only three-thousand and it’s the most special thing I own.

Wait. Hold still.

Don’t be alarmed. There’s a passport shaped hole growing slowly on your left breast.

If I squint enough I can see it.

You look shocked. Please, it’s ok. I’ve seen this before, it’s jealousy. My parents’ said delusion, but I’m sure it’s a jealousy that’s so strong it’s inspiring metaphysical change.

Wait, I’ll keep squinting and yes please move your arm slightly. Ah, I can see a bit of your nipple. Divine.

It’s ok, don’t shy away, I’m a recognised member of the cultural world. I only see it tastefully. It looks a bit like Socrates; how wonderful.

So, how did I get a Tom Sachs’ Swiss Passport?

The Passport? Oh, it was fate.

That Friday, I hadn’t set out to be formally recognised for anything, it was all a happy accident.

At a pub in Angel, growing tired of my tedious anecdotes, my friend suggested that we should do something more fun.

He tried hard not to hurt my feelings, stopping me mid-monologue, saying, “Henry, stop talking shit, Tom Sachs is in London tonight and he’s giving out Swiss Passports.

Intrigued and well informed, I replied, “who’s Tom Sachs?

Finally, and here’s the clincher, he said, “it’s in Mayfair,” and after a brief pause, “if you  come and you tell other people, they’ll take you more seriously.

So I did, and they must.

And that’s how we agreed to do something more fun.

€20 in hand, we boarded the tube to Green Park and joined the queue to the issuing office. Two hours in, Tom Sachs himself appeared and distributed raffle tickets to those in line. I ended up with number 56 pink, or as I say, “Shotts Bus, Princess.

The queues to the issuing office were numerous (four) and long.

It took eight hours.

Yeah, you’d think Tom Sachs had designed it all as a performance piece about bureaucracy. To that I’d say, “no, he’s smarter than that.

More, it was worth it.

Anyway, back to the queue.

Yes, eight hours.

The only thing that kept my spirits up and expectations realistic was enlivened chatter with other hopefuls. And what did we speak of? Well what we’d each do with our Tom Sachs’ Swiss Passports.

So, whatever did you think you’d do with your Tom Sachs’ Swiss Passports?

Thanks for asking.

I wanted to take a moment to immortalise the hopes and dreams of those who dropped out of the queue.

You know, people who don’t now see marble instead of concrete when they visit Elephant & Castle. The poor souls.

And here’s what I remember:

  1. Tina wanted to buy spray paint, irrespective of her age or intention to huff;
  2. Will, to banish the cashier’s judging look when he bought litre bottle of Bells;
  3. Anna, obsessed with cult television, wanted to gain entry to the ExCel Centre for the cast of Doctor Who’s yearly sonic screwdriver signing sessions. I recognised her aim, yes, a Swiss Passport would make it clearly ironic. I lauded her ingenuity, at which point she stopped talking to me;
  4. Tom, to silence the chortles of his local HSBC branch when he next applied  for a loan to fund a Leisure Suit Larry e-Sports league, and
  5. Stephen, well, Stephen. He just didn’t want to go to any more private viewings. This was going to be the last bust.

And then I remembered. All of those hopes were mine too! And those names definitely don’t sound made up. People talk to me so.

This passport was going to be my ticket out of this hellish life.

I think, at the end of it all, that was what Tom Sachs’ intended.

So, what did I do with mine?

Oh, mine? I can see it right now. It’s propped up on the mantle piece.


Well, it’s art, I can’t take it out.

But I can stare and I can dream.

Dream of what I could have done with those hours from 20:30 on Friday night to 7:30 on Saturday morning when I staggered back through my flat’s door.

I could have lived.

But now, I am thankful that I have a clear reminder. A reminder to never, ever queue for eight hours on a Friday night again. Unless I’m suitably drunk.

Artisan’s Guide to Magnet Fishing in London


Excitement and your free time, when did they break up?

It’s 2018 and you’re currently shackled by the chains of prescribed fun. Rooftop bars, adult-sized ball-pits, and lazy afternoons in the park; just like me, you probably hang out with people because they look good in photos.

Excitement is now the last dash of Ribena in the bottle. It doesn’t taste like blackcurrant, it tastes like detergent because it’s too weak and you stopped rinsing your glasses properly.

Is this life? Hell no.

But it’s ok. Take a deep breath and imagine that I’m holding your hand (my hands are strong, don’t worry, I won’t let go). Now, I’m going to whisper in your ear, “Let me take you on an adventure, a completely unimaginable adventure.” Feel the hair stand up at the back of your neck.

Welcome to the cool, dangerous and exceedingly badass world of Magnet Fishing.

I’ve been waiting for you.

Close your eyes again. Imagine, you’re at the edge of a canal, hands clasped tight around a rope, the end, latched onto a mysterious item deposited, deep under the water below. That object, it could be yours.

Already you’re filled with butterflies and you want to jump up and see how far you’ll rise. Don’t. Keep hold of the rope. Taste the salty air and occasional wafts of diesel and let your soul rise. It won’t escape.

You’ve just forgotten what excitement feels like.

Now fall back. Open your eyes. We’ll get there, but first, you need to know how to magnet fish.

Lucky for you, I’ve written an instructional guide about it!

But as with anything worth doing, before you wade into the depths, you need to know the basics, so I’ll start at the beginning: why would anyone want to drop a dirty magnet into a canal to find treasure?

It all begins with how wealth is created.

How is Wealth Created?

Since the discovery of bodies of water, rich people have dropped expensive things into them.

As you should recall from school, rich people dropping expensive gifts into bodies of water is a fundamental stage in the ‘Circle of Wealth’:

  1. Rich parents buy rich children expensive gifts;
  2. Rich children work too hard and tire themselves out;
  3. Rich children retire to their yachts (generally docked on canals in urban metropolises);
  4. Rich children, being bored and tired, embark on affairs with the yacht’s staff, probably pool-boys and girls. In the throes of these passionate affairs, rich children often forget to properly latch, store, or hold onto their expensive gifts. As the boat rocks (hard), the gift’s position becomes precarious against the yacht’s porthole, edging toward the waves below;
  5. Expensive gift descends deep, deep into the body of water.


This diagram is a useful reminder. I found it in a textbook:

The Circle of Wealth, or why you’re not rich

This circle of wealth has maintained social order for millennia. But, you’re probably asking yourself now, where does all that wealth end up?

No doubt this one stumped your economics teacher. It got Marx too. It’s probably the reason Communism hasn’t ever worked.

It’s ok, I’ll explain.

Where do the expensive gifts go?

Into a black void? Perhaps. No-one truly knows what is in a canal, river, lake or pond.

However, it is known that statistically, the greatest killer of ‘stick, hook n’ worm’ fishermen and women is ghost pirates and octopuses.

Knowing this, two conclusions can be derived:

  1. All bodies of water are full of either ghost pirates or octopuses;
  2. Ghost pirates and octopuses are the predator species, and will get first dibs on anything that falls into their territory. (otherwise, why would they be so territorial?)

Now, from this, one can hypothesise which of the two is the most likely to horde expensive gifts.

We know that most octopuses have a higher than average annual income, and might be from space (eminent scientists almost proved this a couple of months ago). However, when field interviewers call on ship wrecks, while ghost pirates are initially quite open, as soon as questions are posed about their income, ghost-cannon balls start a’flyin’. This means that ghost pirates must very embarrassed by their poverty, hence, they have not managed to horde any expensive gifts.

So, the most believable and likely place that expensive gifts end up is in octopuses lairs.

Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking:

Right now, there’s a stupid octopus spinning around in its lair, laughing at both of us, as it plays with assorted precious trinkets, and it’s grandfather-octopus is ill, and it’s thinking about returning to Jupiter with all of that booty!

Tick-tock went the clock.

And I’d see it all play out in your eyes, and say, “Yes, you’re absolutely right.

Here’s what an artist thinks it looks like at the bottom of a river:

Look at that octopus’s smug little face. It’s laughing at you. Disgusting, isn’t it?

Magnet Fishing: Your Motivation

Now you know exactly why need to embark on a magnet fishing expedition, post-haste.

However, in case you’ve missed anything, I’ve summarised your motivation below:

  1. You want to magnet fish because your life is meaningless and boring;
  2. You don’t like octopuses constantly laughing at you;
  3. You want to save rich people’s Rolexes, diamond rings, gold bars, and other precious items from being transported back to Jupiter, where they’ll probably be used to adorn octopus breeding tanks.

Cool me ’arty! Welcome aboard!

So, how do you magnet fish?

Magnet Fishing: What You Need

Unlike those scurvy, fish murdering dogs who use tackle and bait (fishermen and women), magnet fishing is an ethical way to reclaim expensive gifts at the bottom of your local body of water.

Unlike conventional fishing, the equipment requirements of magnet fishing are minimal. You can also customise your equipment to make yourself look totally radical!

Here’s what you need:

1. Primary Neodymium Magnet

It should have a closed eyebolt and a pull of over 100kg. This will be the primary fishing device.

When buying a magnet, avoid the following:

  • Hook pulls instead of closed eyebolts. Don’t buy these; they’re manufactured by octopuses that want aspiring magnet fishers to lose their magnets forever.
  • Anything within the region of 10 to 80 kg pull. In practice, this doesn’t present enough attraction to do anything. Online magnet selling platforms will try and trick you into thinking you’ll get some booty with weak magnets like this, but you won’t. You need a much stronger magnet. You’ll never manage to pull a rich person’s moped out of the canal with less than 150kg pull.

2. Rope

At least ten meters, ideally twenty (you can’t let something as basic as rope prevent you from venturing into deeper waters). Brighter colours help passing boats stay out of your way, particularly useful if conditions are foggy.

3. Secondary Magnet (smaller pull)

When you let one of your friends use your magnet, it is inevitable that they will be careless, and as they drag it along the seabed, the pin threading the eyebolt to the magnet will unravel, and you’ll think, ‘golly, I’ve lost that magnet forever’. Get a secondary magnet to pull the other one back up. I’ve done this once, and can confirm that it works 100% of the time.

4. Decent Sized Bag / Shopping Trolley

Poor people don’t live near canals or the rivers. If you’re considering doing this, you must be poor, so you’ll need something to carry all of the stuff you find back to your tenement block.

5. Gloves

If you’re a baby and not already infected with Hepatitis C, wear gloves. You’ll look less cool, but might be immune to needles (rich people drop expensive gold needles, these are a common gift from Daddy, he doesn’t approve of sharing needles following his own IV-ing experiences).

6. Nautical Themed Attire

Passers-by may come up to you and question what you are doing. They could be colluding with octopuses, so keep your identity hidden with a cool pirate hat or Breton sweater.

7. Beer

Securing a decent catch can take time. Bring beer, it improves the experience immeasurably.

8. Radical Music

Don’t play sea shanties, they attract ghost pirates. Anything else is cool; consider post-punk as the genre of choice, given this is such a post-conventional-fishing activity.

9. Ignorance of the Rules of Magnetism

What’s magnetic? Who knows! Like dating, objects that will be attracted to your magnet might surprise you. Not understanding the principles of magnetism helps you develop an unreasonable expectation when embarking on your expedition. Wilful ignorance is a must for magnet fishing!

The checklist below has pictures. It’s for people who can’t read:

Necessary Magnet Fishing Equipment

Magnet Fishing: Directions

You’re now suitably prepared for magnet fishing. This is how you do it:

1. Locate a suitable body of water

Find somewhere to drop your magnet. Think about where rich people go! If you live in London, consider these suitable locations:

2. Invite Friends

Think of the people you need to save. They’re probably bored of life too, e.g. want to spend the weekend hanging out at Dalston Curve Garden. What losers. Invite them along! If they’re apprehensive about joining, punch them hard and tell them you brought beer.

3. Carefully Carry your Supplies

Keep your magnet and mobile telephone apart. Magnets are quite jealous, and like to divert attention away from other objects to themselves. Be warned, if you put your phone in the same bag as the magnet, the magnet will break your phone it in a fit of envy.

4. Get Ready to Fish

Tie your rope with a double knot around the eyebolt of the magnet. Double knots work, don’t do anything more complicated unless you want everyone to know that you used to belong to the local Rainbow platoon (lame).

5. Start Fishing

Magnet Fishing Techniques

There are only two magnet fishing techniques. It’s like swimming, there will never be any more than two strokes (front crawl and butterfly):

1. Swing and Release

This one’s pretty easy, and should be used for bank-based fishing.

  • Hold the rope a meter from the magnet in your dominant hand, and in your secondary hand, hold the rope at around seven to ten meters.
  • Swing the rope back and forth, until it builds enough momentum to knock someone’s teeth out.
  • Release the rope from your primary hand into the body of water; keep hold of the rope in your secondary hand.
  • Let the magnet settle at the bottom of the body of water.
  • Once settled, drag the magnet towards you. If you feel a tug, you’ve got a catch!
  • Repeat until you find something that would make your parents proud. Imagine their smiling faces when you return with a sizable booty. They might forgive you for dropping out of University.

2. Drop and Pray

A technique predominantly used when launching your magnet from a pier or bridge.

  • Use your mind’s eye and imagine where an octopus would build its lair. You’ve imagined below a bridge. Exactly right. Now that you’ve located the octopus’s lair, lean out until the magnet is dangling above it.
  • Drop the magnet.
  • Keep extending the rope until it has descended to the bottom of the body of water.
  • Hold your breathe and wait for either a tug or some resistance on the magnet. If it’s a tug, it’s an octopus.
  • Pull up gently. I normally abide by half an arm’s length at a time. You have to be careful or you will lose your catch. Once your catch has breached the water, consider using two hands to pull up.
  • Continue until you’ve got the booty back to dry land.

Well done, you’ve got a catch. Celebrate with another beer!

6. When You’re Finished

Once you’ve caught enough expensive gifts you should take them home. Water is dirty, so your treasures might be dirty too. If you don’t have a shopping trolley, but instead a rucksack, wrap your catch in a plastic bag.

When you get home, wash your items in the communal shower. Get the shower very dirty. Now your flatmates will ask what you’ve been doing all afternoon. This is a good way to attract new people to magnet fishing.

What you can expect to find

I found a bingo card for this exciting pastime, as below. You’ll probably find a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line on your first outing. If you get a full house, you’re officially king of magnet fishing.



Rich parents give their children a new Rolex or Omega at least twice a year. As thee items are worn on the wrist, they often fall into bodies of water. Also expensive watches are always water resistant, so they’ll work irrespective of how long they’ve been in the water!

Diamond Rings

Rich children are often engaged to other rich children. Given the number of affairs they have, sometimes these engagements go sour. This normally happens when a rich child is annoyed that his or her partner didn’t restock their yacht with enough Moet. Annoyed, they use their partner’s rampant affairs as an excuse to make a scene; normally flinging their engagement rings from the yacht into the canal. This act has two functions:

  1. ensuring that there is always enough Moet on the yacht;
  2. the excitement of a new, fancier engagement ring.


Yachts aren’t loud enough, and how do you impress your new poolboy by pretending to be captain? Exactly, you can’t, they’re probably sleeping with him or her already! So, sometimes rich children feel the need to drive supercars on the deck of the yacht. As most rich children do not have driving licences, this sometimes results in the supercar falling overboard. They have their dignity though, so in the event of a fall, they wouldn’t degrade themselves by pulling the supercar out of the water. Conservative estimates suggest that there are over three and half thousand supercars in Regent’s Canal alone.

Further Adventure

You could find a murder weapon, perhaps a candelabra, a rusty pipe. If you find a weapon, you’ve also found a murder investigation. As an enterprising individual who no longer abides by social convention, you should use the opportunity to set up your own detective agency. Don’t tell the police, find out who the murderer was and maybe blackmail them.

New Friends

It’s difficult to make friends in the city, magnet fishing is guaranteed to make you intriguing and attractive to the opposite sex. I can confirm this as a user of Tinder. I spend all of my free time, when not magnet fishing, explaining the principles of magnet fishing on dating sites. People are all like, ‘Whoa, you’re so cool. Too cool for me. Maybe message someone else’. Or at least that’s what I assume they say. It’s difficult to know, because they must be so intimidated that they unmatch me before they have a chance to share.


Ok, so now you know everything there is to know about magnet fishing! Get out there you sea-dog and find yourself some expensive gifts. If you find a great spot, let me know. I’d be more than happy to join and drink your beer.