Could This Be A Moment? On Friday I counted seven moments. Seven, for the whole day.

And a warm welcome from Highgate Woods, once part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex.

This Forest was once described by Thomas Becket’s admin guy as a ‘vast forest, its copses dense with foliage concealing wild animals — stags, does, boars, and wild bulls’.

Now it’s the dominion of the dog walkers of Muswell Hill, the ring-necked parakeets of London, and me: a man in a green and gold jumper, perched on an ivy-wreathed beech trunk, staring into his lap-topped laptop.

We all know how many hours there are in a day (24), how many minutes in an hour (60) and how many seconds tick by in a minute (also 60) — and every schoolchild knows all too well how many nanoseconds there are in a double maths lesson (54,000,000,000,000).

But how many moments do we get in a day?

You know what a moment is, I hope. If you’re not sure, then let me show you what I mean.

On Friday, when I started writing this heinously delayed thought-prayer, I counted seven moments.

Seven, for the whole day.

  1. A moment when I woke up in bed, on a boat, with the roaring of the weir all around me.
  2. A moment of nostalgic reflection as I stripped our Thighs of Steel support van of its soapy assets, wondering when we’ll ride again.
  3. A moment in the car, parked up by the farmhouse, admiring the weeds that have grown up along the red brick garden wall, mortared with moss.
  4. A moment in Marlborough, playing my part in a traffic crawl along the Bath Road, idly watching the schoolkids in tartan skirts, blazers or tracksuits, all clutching binders of notes, walking between lessons.
  5. A moment of pilgrimage with the family plum tree in the sunshine. All bar five leaves fallen. The five nibbled by unseen insects, leaving bullet holes against the blue sky
  6. A moment in the ticket hall at Bournemouth train station. No words, holding each other tight.
  7. A moment of stretching on the yoga mat, sharing poses before sleep.

A moment, in this sense, is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as —

A period of time (not necessarily brief) marked by a particular quality of experience.

(p.s. If you are based in the UK, then you almost certainly have access to the full subscriber edition of the OED through your local libraries card. GTK.)

For me, moments are the little times in life that you notice that you are alive.

Moments dawn on us: aha, we might think, this is a moment.

It’s awareness.

‘Well, if this isn’t nice, then I don’t know what is.’

A good way to practice noticing moments is to look around you and say to yourself, ‘Well, if this isn’t nice, then I don’t know what is.’

Another good way to notice is to write or sketch the moment.

I’ve done a little of the latter and a whole lot of the former.

Writing makes a moment pop out into consciousness instead of passing by.

Even the most mundane moments take on a meaningful significance if you sit and notice them for long enough.

There was nothing special about that moment, only that it was noticed.

This kind of writing is something I call close writing.

Here’s a snatch from my first (published) close writing, back in 2007, sketched out while sitting on a bench in the gardens of Russell Square:

Opposite, two police officers talk to a man, standing, pointing. Another man sits and the dog plays around them. They are taking details. The man sits and I can see that he is aged, with a flat cap and white beard. The mother bends to take a photo of the child and the dog interrupts, sniffing at whatever that is. He leaves to take a piss.

It’s not a big moment, not like that moment you met the love of your life. Maybe it’s not even a moderately significant moment, not like that moment you got your maths exam results.

But it is a moment, nonetheless, and one that I’ve remembered vividly for more than sixteen years.

It was a moment when I — the I back then, whoever he was — took the time to notice that I and we, the cast of characters around me in the square, were indisputably alive.

And that is a joyous thing to remember indeed. All the more joyous precisely because there was nothing ostensibly special about that moment, only that it was noticed.

This really could be a moment.

I’d encourage you as I would love to encourage myself today and tomorrow. Let’s look up and around us. Let’s notice things. Above all, let’s notice the living breathing awareness of things.

We could, just as easily, be not aware of things. And yet we are. Or we can be.

This really could be a moment.

And, when we do notice these moments, we can always go back to them. Recognition of a moment extends that moment into the future and beyond.

A part of us will always be sitting in Russell Square gardens in the sunshine, will always be paying pilgrimage to the family plum tree and will always be holding each other tight in the ticket hall at Bournemouth train station.

That is a wonderful thing to remember.

Only then, if you like, share.

A word to the wise: writing can take you out of a moment as well as deeper into it.

This is especially true when our noticing mutates into the modern urge to share too soon: to take our words, or images, and send them to distant loved ones, nownownow.

My favourite form of noticing is when my words or sketches come from inside the moment. There becomes a oneness, a unity between art and presence.

Against this unity, sharing our noticings too soon is like ‘othering’ our own experience, creating distance in place of connection.

Allow your art to explore the moment in its fullness. Then, when the moment has passed, return there in the art, refine and expand.

Only then, if you like, share.


In the fifty-five minutes that it has taken me to write this little thing, Merlin tells me that I’ve shared space with seventeen woodland birds, including a nuthatch.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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