Five small things

Responsibility, mushrooms, cherry laurels, right wing media, needy cars

Happy Friday!

And welcome to edition 287 (isn’t that a lot!). For those of you who are new around these parts, my name is David Charles and I’m a UK-based writer, bike botherer and outdoor instructor.

I’m sitting on a stool in the sunshine, getting paid to feel the breeze on the back of my neck, listen to the oily squeak of the birds and smell the orangey smells of autumn.

I’m actually waiting for a bunch of young people as they make their own way over stiles, across fields and through hedgerows.

Yesterday we did the hard work: teaching map skills to the sound of fourteen boots dragging in the loamy woods of Burnham Beeches. Today they get to have all the fun: racing around the nine kilometer route at double the speed of our blood-from-stone instructor-led sessions.

The change in our students’ pace when we hand over control is thrilling. Give a kid a fish and they’ll eat sushi for a day. Give a kid a map and they’ll turn it every which way but north. Give a kid responsibility and they’ll surprise you.

And it’s clear that it’s that sense of responsibility that is important.

When the instructors are around, the kids tend to switch off and goof off. No stakes, no responsibility. The same is true if the kids are out in force. In groups of ten or more, responsibility gets diluted throughout the group and it’s easy for the goofers to weaken the resolve of the leaders. No accountability, no responsibility.

But when the kids are in small teams, the stakes are high enough and there’s just enough accountability to make sure someone (or some two) takes responsibility for leading. That’s where the magic happens.

These kids were twelve-thirteen, but you can smell the potential in the air. I might be deluded, but I like to think that I’m helping to grow the next generation of naturalists, environmentalists, outdoorsfolk and ramblers.

It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a whole country to raise the countryside.

What not to eat

The cherry laurel fruits at this time of year. The cherry laurel is a shrub that pops up here and there, looking a lot like a rhodedendron, with its waxy leaves and stubborn mentality.

Delicious fruits dangle overhead, often wantonly at the height of juicy mouths, ripe and bursting with fleshy cherry pith and poison. Yep. Poison. Agatha Christie cyanide.

Don’t eat.


It’s also mushroom picking season. On Burnham Beeches and Stoke Common, however, this bucolic activity is banned in both English and Polish.

I wonder what it says about the woodcraft of the Polish that they must be specifically admonished in their own mother tongue?

I wish I had to be singled-out, but I wouldn’t really know where to start with my picking. The only mushroom I can identify with any confidence is the psilocybe.

I promised that I wouldn’t write about cycling for a while, but did you see us on BBC News?

We’ve got Sky News on Monday and that’ll complete a fairly thorough sweep of the right wing media, including The S*n, Evening Standard and the i, owned by Daily Mail and General Trust.

Interestingly, the left wing media have been silent on our adventure. That’s not in itself a bad thing: why bother preaching to the choir, milking the bull, milling the wind or indeed barking at the moon?

It’s the right that we need to convince. And, to be fair, the write ups have been wholly positive.

The comments, on the other hand, are, in the words of one investigative friend, ‘mostly a dumpster fire’.

100 Days of Adventure





What is this?

They need us more than we need them

Cars are needy little creeps, aren’t they?

I was feeling pretty good that I hadn’t needed to use mine for a Vernian eighty days and got a wonderful cosy feeling when, on clunk-clicking the door on Wednesday morning, I found the interior covered in cobwebs.

But the Corollavirus didn’t feel the same. He wouldn’t start. So, for the second time since I took ownership six months ago, I had to call out the breakdown mechanics because I hadn’t been using up enough fossil fuels to keep the vehicle functioning.


Luckily, the mechanic sorted me out within half an hour and I managed to get to the Chilterns for the above-mentioned work.

But then I had the temerity to drive home. At night. With the headlights on. Ever since, the battery has given me not a flicker.

Somebody told me that I need a trickle charger. But I suspect a better solution would be to sell the car…

The Parisian adjunct mayor for transportation and public space seems pretty rad:

The redistribution of public space is a policy of social redistribution.

Fifty percent of public space is occupied by private cars, which are used mostly by the richest, and mostly by men, because it’s mostly men who drive, and so in total, the richest men are using half the public space.

So if we give the space to walking, biking, and public transit, you give back public space to the categories of people who today are deprived.


And, if I drove in Barcelona, maybe I could trade the Corollavirus in for a bus ticket.


I hope you enjoyed these amuse bouches from the past week. Among the interviews and the woods, time is short. I won’t promise anything of any greater heft next week — I may well be swapping the mountains for the mechanics — but soon I shall write at greater length.

Big love,