Flash in the pan

This week: Foiled returns, To The Lighthouse, bison, and flash-in-the-pan breads...

Happy Friday!

And welcome to one of my hosted word buffets. Sometimes there is so much that I want to share here that I can’t afford to write at length on any one topic. Instead, here are five different dishes: you should find something to your taste.

Firstly: thank you for all your comments and questions about The Great Whatsapp Stink. It’s been really nice seeing your faces popping up on Signal. I hope you’re enjoying the app and I’d love to hear from you if you have any concerns, questions or comments. In fact, I’ve answered a few questions over on my blog (thanks to a great email exchange with F.R.).

Secondly: I’m currently in self-isolation after a contact tested positive for coronavirus. Luckily, the symptoms are very mild and it’s business as usual here, only with the positive constraint of not being allowed to leave the flat. It’s amazing how much time I have now that I can’t go outside and I’ve got a wonderful friend to do my food shop! On which note: inexpressible thanks to G.C.—my daffodil-bearing saviour.

Foiled returns

Episode 1 of Foiled, a radio sitcom written by me and Beth Granville, airs on Monday.

Bleach for the Stars is thriving under the guidance of local baguettes entrepreneur Tariq. But the baguette mogul’s new world order is seriously threatening Tanisha and Richie’s historically lax working life. Will they be able to oust Tariq and convince Sabrina to take her salon back, especially now she’s flourishing in her new role as Head of Baguettes?

I’m excited and nervous to listen to the show—excited because we think the scripts are brilliant; nervous because the poor actors had to record those scripts while hiding under their duvet and/or inside a wardrobe. Oh, 2020…

Would you like something great to land on your doormat?

In an attempt to learn more from the Internet while spending less time on the Internet, I’ve started printing out interesting articles instead of reading them on the screen. The trick seems to work: I read carefully and critically. I make notes. I don’t burn holes in my retina.

But I’ve now got a pile of interesting articles sitting on my desk: it’d be a real shame just to throw them straight into the recycling bin. Instead, I wondered if you’d like to read them too?

If you do:

  1. Reply to this email with your address

  2. And I’ll post you one great article (after I’ve come out of isolation!)

This first batch includes long reads about technology in China, loneliness, and the (non-)polarisation of UK society.

I won’t tell you in advance which article you’ll get—that’d spoil the surprise—but I can guarantee you that I, at least, will have found it interesting. It might even come scribbled with notes. Could be a fun way of connecting over distance and introducing some serendipity into your lockdown reading habits!

Note: Sorry, this feature is for UK readers only—unless you’re willing to pony up for international postage!

Veganaury: Two flash-in-the-pan breads

The Bread for Life that I shared a while ago is still my daily loaf, but here are two very entertaining breads that can be made in a few minutes using your hob.

1. Proper corn tortillas (with thanks to L.H.)

For this recipe you will need:

  • Masa harina (maize flour)

  • Warm water

  • Cling film or greaseproof paper

  • Chopping board or similar flat, bigger-than-tortilla-sized, weighty object

  • Rolling pin or similar rolling object—I use a measuring beaker

  • Frying pan

  • Optional: salt or other spices


  1. Get your frying pan ready on your hob: you want it nice and hot.

  2. Mix the masa harina with warm water in proportions of 4:3—i.e two cups of flour to one and a half cups of warm water. This recipe is so quick that it hardly matters if you make too much or too little. Chuck in your salt or other spices if you’re going down that road.

  3. Use your hands to mush the mixture into a doughy ball. Split the big dough ball into mini balls.

  4. Tear off two sheets of cling film. Lay one down flat on the counter top and put your first mini dough ball in the middle. Lay the other sheet of cling film over the top. You can also use greaseproof paper, but it’s slightly more sticky so I find I have to be extra careful on stage 6.

  5. Flatten your mini dough ball into a circular disc shape using a chopping board and your body weight. You can also use a tortilla press, but who has one of those? To get the tortilla really thin you can gently roll it out using a rolling pin or similar—but be careful because the masa harina is really fragile.

  6. Carefully peel off the top layer of cling film. Flip the tortilla over and use gravity to gently unpeel the tortilla from the other layer of cling film. If you use greaseproof paper, you can actually cook the exposed side of the tortilla while the second piece of paper still attached—it’s easier to peel off after the tortilla is cooked a little.

  7. Lay the tortilla onto the hot frying pan. Cook for 30 seconds and then carefully flip to the other side for another 30 seconds. Keep on flipping until the tortilla is cooked through. It should be soft enough to roll without falling apart. You’ll get the hang of it.

2. Vegan naan bread

I stole this recipe from Loving It Vegan. Naan bread takes a bit longer than tortilla because the dough needs to rise. I leave it for an hour in an airing cupboard. For that authentic naan flavour, I also add nigella seeds while the bread is cooking on the hob.

Books Make Books

To The Lighthouse

I have published another edition of my highly irregular literary newsletter Books Make Books. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is bloody brilliant. Let it wash over you: not so much a stream of consciousness as an ocean.

The novel is full of sly observations of human nature as well as the frustrating internal conflict involved in smashing the patriarchy. But my favourite stretch of writing was in Part II: Time Passes. The air as it wafts around the sleeping house is particularly delightful:

At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to.

‘Can you handle a beast as heavy as a small car, that can hurdle high fences from a standing start, and is a peaceful bulldozer for biodiversity?’

This week I also finished reading Feral by George Monbiot. In this (excellent) polemic, environmental writer and campaigner Monbiot fantasises about rewilding Great Britain—and the British people—by converting managed land into ‘self-willed’ land.

Monbiot advocates strongly for the reintroduction of native fauna, particularly the larger species that were hunted to extinction by humans. Species Monbiot would love to see returning to these shores include wild boar, elk, lynx, wolf and, indeed, those fence hurdling bison.

So I was delighted to read that a small, free-roaming herd of bulldozing bison are to be released into Blean Woods, near Canterbury.

If you’d like to learn more about why wild bison are a good thing for conservation, I’d really encourage you to pick up Feral. You might even end up with a job: Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust are looking for a pair of rangers to keep these wild animals as close to wild as possible in this pocket of the home counties.

Many thanks to L.H. for giving me Feral to read.

Here in Bournemouth, the weather is maddeningly sunny, turning the sitting room into a sauna. If I wasn’t in self-isolation, as soon as I press send, I would be running down to the seaside to frolic in the surf.

Earlier this week, before I locked myself down, I had a fine time thrashing about in the sea trying out my new winter swimming gloves and socks (thanks to B.&M.C.). It’s amazing how much of a difference having genuinely warm hands and feet make to both a) getting into the 8 degree water and b) staying in the 8 degree water.

As a bonus, the socks protect my feet from annoying little stones and shells. Joyous. The only question is: why did I wait so long?

Finally finally: I have finished re-editing the actual physical book of last year’s newsletter. If you’re a paying subscriber, reply to this email with your address and I’ll send the book out to you next week—insha’allah.

If you’re not already a paying subscriber and you’d like a copy of the book, it will be available to buy online. Or you could just become a paying subscriber… 😘

Until next time, thank you for reading!

Big love,


Hello, I’m David Charles and I’m a UK-based writer and outdoor instructor. Say hello by replying to this email, or delve into 500+ other articles on davidcharles.info.

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