This week: swimming, the 'hyper-real', trespass and black holes...

Happy Friday!

And welcome to a week of swimming: in Foiled, in time, in the sea.

Thanks for all your replies last week—I’m honoured to write for you. Love is like compost, nourishing our growth in invisible ways, barely distinguishable from the soil we stand in. The rose draws the eye in a way that decomposing horse manure hardly ever does. But for the rose, for us, we know what we owe.

This was an unfinished thought.

The Shock and The Reason

Fed up reading about the pandemic? Scroll on.

But if you’re interested in thinking more about the connection between Covid-19 and the ‘hyper-real’, then knock yourself out on this short reflection on my website. Inspired by The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber, with a little help from Marcel Proust:

Some moments after the shock, my intelligence, which like the sound of thunder travels less rapidly, taught me the reason.

✒️ Recently…

🚴 Always available: the collected scribblings of my round Britain cycling adventures


The majority of the English countryside is out of bounds for most of its population. 92% of the countryside and 97% of rivers are off limits to the public.

Private Keep Out signs are a personal hatred of mine. In England, we forget that private ownership of the land is an abomination in most of the rest of the world.

Private ownership without allowance for public access is the deoxygenated water in the poisoned pond that we swim in: so ubiquitous that we don’t even know what we’re doing to ourselves.

But there are other ponds. And we can clean our own water. Even in Scotland, public access to private land is a right enshrined in law.

Nick Hayes is an illustrator and writer who has recently published The Book of Trespass, which charts the human stories, history and politics of land enclosure. At its heart is a passionate campaign to extend the Right to Roam in England, currently under threat from the Conservative Party who want to make trespass a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment.

If that happens, then I don’t know how many of our outdoor adventures would end in gaol time, but probably about 92 percent. 97 percent if you like to swim, paddle or kayak.

If, like me, you have found sanctuary in our countryside during the pandemic, then please join the campaign.

During lockdown, perhaps the issue of crowded parks and footpaths was not so much people flouting the rules, but very simply the lack of space available to people taking their daily exercise. Covid-19 has demonstrated that access to space is very visibly, very viscerally, linked to social wellbeing.

Any more for any more?

  • Interview: Using books to navigate life with Juvoni Beckford (Ness Labs) Anne-Laure interviews a guy who has read 450 books in a decade. More interestingly, he’s developed a colour-coded sticky-tab system for highlighting important passages. The question is: can we be fucked to use it too? You decide.

  • When a black hole gets old, it starts to ‘regurgitate’ ‘encrypted’ information. I can recommend that you print out this 20-page long read from Quanta Magazine.

  • Transforming grey front yards into green front gardens has been shown to double the proportion of healthy cortisol levels in urbanites. That’s about the same effect as eight mindfulness sessions, but without all the incense. What colour is your neighbourhood?

  • Do you ever want to use webpages more like desktop apps? If so, then try the open source, cross-platform Nativefier. You’ll need to download the latest node.js environment, but don’t get scared—installation is a matter of typing one line of code copied from the Nativefier ReadMe. It’s perfect for switching away from losing your most used pages in the screenscape of browser windows and open tabs.

  • A Single Map Is Enough: a fantastic Covid-friendly adventuring idea from Al Humphreys.

  • From Future Crunch, this is the most ideas dense paragraph I’ve come across in a long time:

    We've come across four great new concepts this week. First, skin hunger, the mental and physical malaise caused by going too long without being touched. Second, involution, the opposite of evolution, used to describe Chinese urbanites turned apathetic by incessant competition. Third, an opsimath, a person who blooms late in life. And finally, zozobra, Mexican philosophers' word for the oh-so modern anxiety of being unable to settle into a single point of view.

(Thanks to P for sending me this!)

This week I learned that since 2005 I’ve published 693 blog posts totalling more than 514,018 words and 27,382 instances of the word ‘the’. If you’d like to wallow in words, then browse the motherlode on davidcharles.info. Credit for this discovery is due to the excellent Blog to HTML Wordpress plugin and the AntConc corpus analysis software. And my mum.

Creativity is your antidote to bureaucracy. Rebel! And may all your creative endeavours this week be fruitful.

Big love,


Hello, I’m David Charles and I wrote this newsletter. I publish another newsletter about reading called Books Make Books. I’m co-writer of BBC Radio Wales sitcom Foiled, and also write for The Bike Project, the Center for International Forestry Research and Thighs of Steel. Reply to this email, or delve into the archive on davidcharles.info.

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