Stop: hammock time

There is something ineffably childish about a hammock.

There is something ineffably childish about a hammock. It shouldn't be allowed: to spend half an hour gently rocking between the boughs of a tree. Certainly not on a Monday lunchtime.

But that is exactly what I did, once I’d figured out — and learnt to trust — the soft shackle fixings of my new sling.

It weighs scarcely more than a third of a kilo and can hold two of me (although that's against the rules laid out in the instruction booklet, and not only because cloning humans is ethically dubious).

Tucked up in the canvas, I feel swaddled. Staring up into the fractal treeline, there is nothing to do here except relax. So I let myself gently down into the golden apricity.

Watching the birds fly overhead, the squirrels skipping from branch to branch and the pigeons wooing from the upper boughs.

I'd love to hear from you if you're joining me on my attempt to spend thirty minutes in nature every day for thirty days. Give us a shout and let me know. We can swap notes. There's only one rule: don't miss twice.


For those of you interested in such things, I’m rocking a DD Superlight Hammock.

First they came for the squatters…

It must sound like I do hardly any work at all, but — outside the hammock — I’ve been rather busy. Secret signups for Thighs of Steel are going really well. The list is now over two-thirds full so if you’re umming and ahhing, don’t wait too long!

Beth and I have also been working on a new project about vans. We spent yesterday evening at a meeting for van dwellers in Stokes Croft, partially for research, partially because I’m genuinely interested in buying a van in which to dwell.

It turns out that van dwellers are a community under attack.

Campaign group Friends, Families and Travellers explain:

On 5 November 2019, the Government launched a consultation to strengthen police powers against roadside Travellers.

This includes van dwellers of all stripes — yes, even the ones looking great on Instagram.

The governmentour government says:

We would like to consult on measures to criminalise the act of trespassing when setting up an unauthorised encampment in England and Wales.

An ‘unauthorised encampment’ could mean just two vehicles — your car and your trailer or caravan, for example. Criminalise.

The police have already said that they are against any changes to the current law — and that the real problem is the lack of site provision for Travellers.

This ‘consultation’ is driven, once more, by a government eager to stamp out alternative — both desperate and creative — solutions to a housing crisis of their own making, and instead to protect the property investments of their friends.

It’s also worth saying that most Travellers — over 95 percent according to some estimates — live on land they either own or have rights to, like my friend who lives in a yard under the wonderfully named ‘Showman’s License’.

This ugly witch hunt reminds me of the 2011 Conservative anti-squatting ‘consultation’, which received little support from the general public and vehement opposition from those who would have to enforce the unfair, punitative laws: both lawyers and, again, the police.

Despite this, the harshest imaginable anti-squatting laws were passed.

When peoples’ only choice is criminalised, the legality of the law itself is discredited.

— Professor Danny Dorling, Oxford University

If you’d like to have your say on the consultation, Friends, Families and Travellers have an excellent shortcut form that took me less than ten seconds to fill in.

First they came for the squatters, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a squatter.

Then they came for the Gypsies, Travellers and van dwellers…

Books Make Books: Border by Kapka Kassabova

Rivers thundered under, and sometimes over, bridges. Pink orchards blossomed, and rubbish lay strewn on the sides of the east-west motorway, as if every traveller had chucked out a plastic bottle in revenge for some old insult.

This travel-history-memoir is an early contender for Dave’s Book of the Year. You can read nine excerpts and learn nine new words, including zmey and yavash-yavash, in my Books Make Books review.

I recently finished reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie so expect to see that popping up on Books Make Books in the near future. You can subscribe to the newsletter here for something like 30-50 books a year.

One of the great advantages of ‘shelf-sitting’ (like house-sitting, but for books) is that I’m thrown into unexpected literary worlds. I was particularly pleased to pluck EM Forster’s The Machine Stops from the shelves for my bedtime reading while I’m here in Bristol.


By Sheenagh Pugh

What if this road, that has no held surprises
these many years, decided not to go
home after all; what if it could turn
left or right with no more ado
than a kite-tail? What if its tarry skin
were like a long, supple bolt of cloth,
that is shaken and rolled out, and takes
a new shape from the contours beneath?
And if it chose to lay itself down
in a new way; around a blind corner,
across hills you must climb without knowing
what’s on the other side; who would not hanker
to be going, at all risks? Who wants to know
a story’s end, or where a road will go?

Thanks to M.C. for sharing this poem, all about the Highways Act 1980.

Your neck of the woods?

Thanks to everyone who said how much they enjoyed the last newsletter — and thanks for sharing it with your friends. It means a lot. New people signed up, so welcome to you guys. I hope you like it around here.

I’m back to Bournemouth on Tuesday and next week’s newsletter will come from a volunteer work day on Brownsea Island, so please expect red squirrels.

Much love,


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 subscribing!