A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.
Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.
Actually, it wasn’t.
I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.
Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?”
Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.”
Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?”
A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?”
The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.”
Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.
Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).
So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.
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.
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).
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:
Tina wanted to buy spray paint, irrespective of her age or intention to huff;
Will, to banish the cashier’s judging look when he bought litre bottle of Bells;
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;
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
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.
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’:
Rich parents buy rich children expensive gifts;
Rich children work too hard and tire themselves out;
Rich children retire to their yachts (generally docked on canals in urban metropolises);
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;
Expensive gift descends deep, deep into the body of water.
This diagram is a useful reminder. I found it in a textbook:
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:
All bodies of water are full of either ghost pirates or octopuses;
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:
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:
You want to magnet fish because your life is meaningless and boring;
You don’t like octopuses constantly laughing at you;
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
London Fields Lido (the guards let you swim in your undergarments before 7am, hence, security’s pretty lax)
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!
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:
ensuring that there is always enough Moet on the yacht;
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.
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.
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.