Social Distancing

Imagine a world high above the world, a world full of budding life, far from the ills of the world, where even the strayest human passes distantly beneath the world; a world of nooks and canopies giving out onto blue skies and blackbirds, a world we can explore anew, like we did when we were new, when hours would pass before anyone came calling; a world of secret hideaways and free isolation, where perspective comes easy, far over and above schooldays and workdays; a world where we might find refuge, shelter and peace.

This world is here. Up here. In the trees.

Last Saturday was the International Day of Forests and I accidentally observed the moment by climbing no less than six trees.

Crouched in the branches of a pine that grows like a climbing frame over the gate to our garden, watching the toings and froings of pensioners and parents in their two metre bubbles, I am struck by a memory of one of the first short stories I ever wrote.

Perched was written more than ten years ago, during the dying days of my office-based career, written while sitting at the foot of a willow along the banks of the Thames in August, on an evening before and after long days as a stifling data entry clerk.

It wasn’t obvious until a month later, when I walked out of the job without notice, what this story was about. Now, as I perch on this flaking old pine, I’m jolted back to its secret yearnings to escape the day-to-day, up and away, into the canopy.

He was perched high up in the tree with his fingers curled around the branch like a bird. He was frozen still, but his muscles were taut as if he were about to fly away. Which of course he wasn’t, because, aside from being a man in a bowler hat perched in a tree, he looked perfectly normal.

If you’re keen, you can read the rest of the very short story here.

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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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