This week: cycling round the world, slow dating, blackout blinds and your second self...

Happy Friday!

And welcome to the silent sound of several hundred people stretching their legs, lubricating their nethers and applying sun cream. Tomorrow we begin…

Long time readers will know that every year I do a bit of fundraising for grassroots refugee organisations.

Starting tomorrow, Thighs of Steel, Help Refugees, over 200 people and MEEEE are embarking on an epic lockdown-friendly fundraising challenge.

Around the world in 40 days

Over the next 40 days, we’re aiming to collectively run/ride/roll 29,000 miles around the hypothetical globe — the way things are going we might even manage two loops!

So, the big ask:

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, I’d be thrilled if you make a donation. (I’m currently on £0 😭) Just hit the magic button:

Help Refugees!

If you don’t, can’t or won’t, it’s fine. I still love you. We’re all in different situations and I’m sure some of you reckon there are more important causes in the world. Fair enough.

If you do donate, though — thank you! I will send you exciting bespoke electronic post (i.e. an email to your email address).

This is assuming I can work out who you are from your donation. If you want to make sure you get your electronic post, please reply to this email and say hi!

Over the past two years, mega generous donations from friends, family and complete strangers have helped Thighs of Steel cyclists raise more than £120,000 for refugee support organisations like Khora in Athens and The Bike Project in London and Birmingham.

We believe that everyone deserves good legal advice, healthy food, companionship and a new start in a safe country. We don’t want to let Covid-19 stop the good work!

Finally: if you’d like to join us by fundraising and riding/running/rolling any number of miles—awesome—head over to the Help Refugees x Thighs of Steel page.

Can’t even…

These three things have helped the last week go rolling peacefully past like the golden fields I used to ignore outside my train window.

1. Slow dating

On Monday I took part in an experiment from the Psychedelic Society that was either going to be utterly cringe-making or utterly wonderful. Or, as it turned out, both.

Phone and video calls with friends and family are great, but as someone who hasn’t had social activity for 74 days and counting, I’ve been missing serendipitous interactions with strangers.

This is where the Psychedelic Society’s Slow Dating event was the answer to my cravings: five short video calls with complete unknowns, nodes networked by their desire to connect. Some hilarious, some awkward, but all joyous by virtue of their novelty.

They’re running another session on 8 June.

2. Blackout blinds, audio dreams

This week I fitted what I’m resolutely calling ‘shutters’ to my bedroom windows. The subscript effect is 99.5% blackout, the headline spin-off is memorable dreams.

Earlier this week, I played stadium football and visited the research lab of a friend in Chicago. This morning, I took part in a beautiful hotel scene, soundtracked by a forgotten song.

My theory is that the blackout darkness holds me longer in the final hypnapompic stages of sleep, the lightest, most febrile lattice between consciousness and dreaming.

Instead of starting up as soon as the light pierces my eyelids, I hover for a moment, long enough to remember these waking dreams. It’s a theory.

3. Stephen Fry recounts his favourite Greek myths

I really enjoyed this 15 minute podcast from We’ll Always Have Athens. Olives, infidelity and murder—what’s not to love?

Full marks to…

1. The makers of TiddlyWiki and Stroll

I’ve been enjoying playing around with the note-taking tool TiddlyWiki—more specifically a powerful extension called Stroll.

Thanks to Paul for getting me reacquainted with a program that I first discovered way back in, I think, 2006. Ness Labs has an excellent introduction to TiddlyWiki if you’re intrigued.

2. Your second self

Yesterday I finished reading Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood. It’s brilliant.

The book introduced me to the concept of the ‘second self’, the notion that our habits are so powerful and so estranged from our executive function that they deserve equal acknowledgement alongside our autobiographical, conscious ‘I’ or ‘ego’.

According to Wood’s research, our habits account for around 40 percent of our behaviour. She believes that it’s time we got to know this ‘second self’ and started to work to its strengths, rather than exhausting ourselves by trying to overwhelm reality through willpower alone.

I’m going to write more about this—possibly later today to the people who donate to my fundraiser (blackmail, moi?!).

3. Khora

Huge shout out to everyone volunteering at Khora, helping deliver thousands of free meals to refugees and other vulnerable lockdowned humans in Athens and beyond—especially in 38 degree heat!

Any more for any more?

  • The London Migration Film Festival has opened up an amazing vault of films—expect Chinese dogs, Sicilian fishermen and Bulgarian prostitutes—all free to watch online. I haven’t watched any of them, but I know some of you are in the market for long form visuals!

  • Athena Skates: short film about an all-female skate crew in Athens. I have watched this: it’s a lovely piece of work. Thanks to Alex for making it!

  • Solving the miracle Sudoku. As Ben Orlin says:

    You’re about to spend the next 25 minutes watching a guy solve a Sudoku. Not only that, but it’s going to be the highlight of your day.

That’s all this time round. I hope you find a moment this weekend to walk slowly through a field. (Unless you’ve got hay fever…)

Much love,

p.s.: Happy birthday dad!


David Charles wrote this newsletter. He publishes another newsletter about reading called Books Make Books. David is co-writer of BBC Radio Wales sitcom Foiled, and writes for The Bike Project, Forests News, Global Landscape Forum, Elevate and Thighs of Steel. He also edits books about adventure, activism and more. Reply to this email, or delve into the archive on Thank you for reading!

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