Meet your mentor

This week: NHS hype, tree mentors, burner email and online poker...

Happy Friday!

And welcome to edition number 255—coincidentally the same distance in kilometres as the world’s longest single-day triathlon, which takes place on 8 August this year: 5km swim, 200km cycle and 50km run. Sign me up. (Don’t.)

Here’s something else I won’t be doing: telling you all the juicy gossip about my first volunteering shift at a local coronavirus vaccination centre. Any breaches of confidentiality are dealt with very severely by the NHS antiterrorism unit, apparently. No, I didn’t know they had one either.

But suffice to say that the NHS is awesome. I was also incredibly grateful to be hanging out with strangers again. Apart from a few fleeting encounters during non-lockdown moments, I haven’t hung out with strangers for a year. It turns out: strangers are great!

Meet your tree mentor

🌳 You can also read this story on my website

I think everyone needs a mentor. Someone to listen, support and guide you when times get rough or the way ahead is shrouded in confusion.

Mentors are usually human beings, older and wiser than you. But what being could be older or wiser than a tree that has stood firm through wind and rain, fortune and misfortune, for perhaps many decades in your local neighbourhood?

So here’s something a bit different: a practical exercise to meet your local tree mentor and start getting the nature feels that I wrote about last week.

Spoiler: this exercise is part of my free Rewild Your Job workshop later today.

Prepare to meet your mentor

1. Identify a tree mentor (or likely candidate) in your nearby nature

Google Maps does an excellent job at showing you nearby nature, but switch to satellite view and turn off those ugly labels. Click the menu button (three ‘hamburger’ bars in the top left), select ‘Satellite’ and deselect ‘Labels on’.

Another great Google Maps integration is this circle drawing tool. Here you can plop a 3km circle around your house and find nearby nature within range. You can also throw down another circle around your friend’s house to find nature that’s nearby for both of you.

If you’re based in the UK, then check out the OS Maps ‘Greenspace’ layer. This overlay highlights all your local greenspace—and even shows you where the pedestrian and vehicle access points are. Also in the UK, you can plug your postcode into the Woodland Trust search bar to find your nearest tree party.

If you live in a famous city, then check out Treepedia, which uses Google Streetview data to show you where your greenest streets are. Note that this does not include parks.

See if you can find two or three clusters of greenspace that you haven’t visited before.

2. Choose a name for your tree mentor

Personaly, I think it’s a bit rude to go into your meeting without knowing what to call your mentor.

Taking my inspiration from Jack Cooke’s The Tree Climber’s Guide, here are some suggestions: The Peacock Roost, The Tree of Knowledge, The Royal Perch. Don’t overthink it. If you can’t come up with anything right now, call it Dave and see how you go.

3. Block out time in your calendar for your one to one

Seriously. Put it in your diary. You’ll want at least 20 minutes for this first session, excluding travel time.

All done? Great!

AGENDA: Get to know your mentor

When the time comes for your scheduled one to one, I’ve drafted an agenda for you and your mentor. Feel free to pick and choose elements and leave plenty of time for A.O.B.

  1. What species is your mentor tree? Bark, buds and (fallen) leaves, seeds or flowers can solve the mystery. The British Trees app by the Woodland Trust can help you if you’re based in the UK or northern Europe. Elsewhere, or if you need more help, give PictureThis a whirl—it includes tree ring analysis!

    Note: Using your phone while out in nature can undo its beneficial effects so don’t get sucked into this agenda item. You can also pick up a fallen leaf to help with your identification back at home.

  2. What does your tree feel like to touch, smell, admire? Try staring up into the branches for 60 seconds to enjoy the fractal patterns and develop ‘soft fascination’.

  3. How old is your wise mentor? Measure its girth at shoulder height and refer to this rule of thumb method of calculation—or this chart if your mentor is a grand old oak tree. (Note: obviously the PictureThis tree ring analysis is no good here—please don’t chop down your mentor, not now.)

  4. How healthy is your mentor? Does it have any cool scars? 

  5. Who lives here—can you spot any birds or bugs? Fun fact: oak trees can support up to 2,300 other species, the most neighbourly of any tree in Britain.

  6. Are there any other trees nearby? Does your mentor have any friends to play with?

  7. Hypothetically speaking, how would you climb it? 

  8. Practically speaking, and if you can—go ahead and climb your tree! Cling to its branches, sway on the boughs and feel its roots become your roots.

I hope you have some fun and make this a regular check in with the wise trees of your local neighbourhood. Did you feel any improvement in your stress levels? Or notice any bursts of creativity? I’d love to hear how you get on.

Rewild Your Job: 1600 GMT Today!

This afternoon I’m giving a free workshop on how spending time in nature can reduce stress and anxiety, improve creativity and memory, as well as support our immune system and help us sleep.

And we don’t have to disappear into the wilderness for a month to feel the benefit. Significant positive effects have been found from as little as two minutes gazing at beautiful images of nature such as the one above.

If you’re interested in learning more, join us at 1600 GMT on Zoom:

Meeting ID: 868 8145 9885
Passcode: 558776

Many thanks to Anne-Laure Le Cunff and the Ness Labs community for making this workshop happen.

Next on Foiled: a lost drag queen…

Thanks for all your lush messages about Foiled this year!

I’m not going to lie: it’s been a real grind not having our usual live audience. Writers, especially creative writers, especially especially comedy writers, only thrive on the strength of our connection with the people we’re writing for.

Psychologically, I struggle with deriving so much of my job satisfaction from something that can feel so intangible—especially now the live element of that connection has been made illegal. But that’s what we do: we put stuff out there, hoping to catch a spark.

So, truly, thank you for listening, thank you for sharing and thank you for messaging!

Subscribe to the whole series on BBC Sounds

Any more for any more?

After the ripple of interest for The Great Whatsapp Stink a few newsletters ago, I thought I’d share some tools that might help you reconfigure your relationship to technology.

  • Temp Mail or Burner Mail to create disposable email addresses

  • ProtonMail for secure, encrypted email (free basic account, €48/year for more advanced features like storage and a custom domain)

  • to generate fake credit card details to mask your real ones from prying eyes / careless retailers

  • Bridgefy to send encrypted messages over a Bluetooth mesh network—great for when your government shuts down the Internet…

  • Brave or Firefox (using HTTPS Everywhere and Ghostery add ons) to browse a secure web without advertisements—and search using DuckDuckGo

  • Jumbo to tighten up your Facebook and Twitter security and clean up your public profiles

Many thanks to Nich and the Ness Labs community for these suggestions. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

Right! I’m off for a quick swim in the sunshine. I didn’t sleep too well last night after a thrilling mid-week game of poker and need to absorb some nature before the afternoon kicks in.

Side story: Poker Now is a great online platform for Texas Hold Em tournaments. It’s free, fully customisable, with integrated video chat, no downloads, no adverts and no scouting for personal details. If you’d like to join our regular £10 buy in tournaments, reply to this email and say hello.

I’m still printing out fascinating long reads and I’m still sending them out to fascinating people like yourself. Reply with your postal address if you’d like one.

Hope to see you at the workshop later.

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

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