by Tom Owen

TimeOut implores us to love London. But does TimeOut love us? 

It's time to talk about TimeOut. That insidious presence in every Londoner's life. The malevolent black and red manuscript that appears once a week and follows you unbidden back to your home. You don't even want it, but you're conditioned to take it, out of fear that somebody in the office might begin a sentence with, 'Do you want try out that new..?' And you suddenly wish you had studied for this weekly test. You'll just have to sit there in silence, fiddling with your sad little desk tidy as everybody else discusses it and bonds. Your boss will join in on the joke. Remember that promotion you missed out on to Creepy Rob? That’s all because of that one week you brought a book to read on the tube instead of leafing idly through TimeOut like a normal. 

A fucking book? Who do you think you are? Amelie? Some quirky Parisian waif who works for three hours a day and spends the rest of their time ambling blithely around the city streets in a world of their own imagining? You are not Amelie, mate. You are a Londoner. Suck it up.

It says a lot that a film from 2001 was the only reference to a person who owns a book I could pluck from the great, grey sea of recent popular culture. 

I'm not surprised Creepy Rob got the job over you. Who cares if he sometimes gets handsy at the works do – at least he read that article on the ten types of pigeon you'll see in Trafalgar Square. 

Who even writes TimeOut? What is the point of them? Do they go through their entire lives unbearably excited about everything? Between the endless openings of art shows and crunk-salsa fusion dance classes, when do they find time to sit around in their pants eating Starbursts and binge-watching 'Scandal’? 

The kind of stamina it takes to write, with apparent enthusiasm, week in, week out, about the best canal-side bars to drink prosecco in for less than £20 per bottle, is enormous. These people should be riding the Tour de France, or skiing unsupported to the South Pole. Where do they find these endless reserves of give-a-shit?

The only rational explanation is that every two weeks, the entire staff of TimeOut are pitched against each other in a 'Hunger Games' scenario - except instead of the survivor guilt and ashen-faced horror that the young citizens of PanEm experience in the arena, each TimeOut writer takes to the task with boundless glee and gusto. They do not try to kill each other, they try to out-enthuse one another. Extra points are awarded for pithy puns and snappy subheaders.

"Have you seen this collection of late-summer, maritime-themed dresses? They're nautical, but nice!"
"You'll be in Double-oh-heaven with these seven must-try Martini recipes!"
"Get stuffed! These are the eleventy-one funnest taxidermy classes in Leyton!"

I bet it goes on for hours. Just hours and hours. Like the world's peppiest rap battle marathon. Or a type of torture the CIA goons at Camp X-ray would consider ‘a bit much'.

In this battle royale, instead of the physically weak and the strategically suspect, it is those who can no longer muster the enthusiasm that are purged – they are banished from the TimeOut offices and sent to work at a Sunday broadsheet where they will write about quinoauntil they die. The winners live to gush another day. This is the grim reality of producing a weekly print magazine.

Is there anything we can do to stop this horrible cycle? Yes. Ignore them. Like playground bullies, dementors and house cats, these writers feed off your fear. The fear that somehow you'll miss out if you stop reading. And yet stop reading is exactly what you must do. Tell the man in the red anorak to bugger off next time he idly waves a copy at you on your way out of the station. Break the cycle. End the madness. Read a book if you absolutely must.  

Now if only there were somewhere you could find a selection of ten-or-so easily-digested novel recommendations arranged onto a single page of print.

Tom Owen isn't always this cynical. Honest. He is always the editor of Smoke and Tales.

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