Thursday, 14 February 2013

What's your beef?

Now you may be shocked by what you're about to see, so I'd advise you to sit down before reading on (or at least surround yourself with soft pillows to fall on, whilst removing all broken glass, knives and bear traps from your vicinity).

A news report this evening suggests that a company involved in the horse meat scandal bought in cheap horse meat and then passed it off as beef (by using the very sophisticated method known as 'sticking new labels on stuff'). They did this deliberately.

What's that I can hear? Why it's a collective gasp of surprise and astonishment!

Who knew that companies were being deliberately deceitful? I for one had previously assumed that a bunch of horses had dressed up in cow onesies in a prank that just went too far.

But no. It was actually in this instance a French company *cups hand to ear to hear another crescendo of astonished gasps* that was, what in the scientific community is known as, 'buggering about with the food chain'.

The company concerned is called 'Spanghero'. To be honest, that should have been enough of a warning in itself. It sounds very made up, like something out of a comic book.

A while back on Twitter, when the news of the buggered up food chain first broke, I saw several tweets (mainly from vegetarians) along the lines of 'If you're happy to eat beef, what does it matter if you actually end up eating horse?'

Whilst on one level I can appreciate the point that is being made, the reality is that despite what some militant vegetarians might think, just because I might choose to eat beef, doesn't mean I'm an actual omnivore. I'd never choose to eat horse. Or lamb, rabbit, goat, dog or most other living things.

If we're happy to shrug off such incidents with a 'well I don't know what you're complaining about, you dirty meat eater' attitude, what message does that send to the food manufactures and sellers?

If we can't trust the ingredients presented to us, even in a basic meal, how can any of us ever make a conscious choice about what we eat?

Whether you're buying a steak, chicken nuggets or a ready meal that contains Quorn, it's only fair to know for sure that it is what it purports to be.

Not to mention the fact that if food manufacturers are happy to blatantly lie about something as basic as the meat used in their products, how can they be trusted to be employing the necessary stringent hygiene controls? They could literally be 'pissing on your chips' just for a laugh.

Funnily enough, this whole incident has made me question what I'm eating and the conditions slaughtered animals face. I'm very tempted to go back to being a vegetarian (I was previously one for a total of 15 years at various periods of my life).

Unfortunately, the reason why I always ended up returning to meat was that no matter what I tried in order to maintain a healthy balanced diet, I always ended up feeling ridiculously weak and wobbly. The only antidote that I found to this was having a steak casserole or similar - suddenly the life force flooded back into me.

I guess the key with this, like any other situation is finding the right balance that suits you. And also, not pretending that X is actually Y.

In the spirit of ceasing to pretend that you are something that you're not, I will no longer be passing myself off as a black rapper. Apologies to all of you who used to enjoy my breakdancing on an old piece of lino down the shopping centre.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Like something out of a really dull episode of Hollyoaks...

Saint Valentine's day! The worst day of the year for my poor old postman. 

Oh no, not because his sack is overloaded with loving cards and trinkets from my scores of admirers, but because I verbally abuse him for having stolen all of it. Seriously, does he really think I believe his tale that nobody has sent me a single thing yet AGAIN? 

In reality, aside from the ones that I've sent to myself (and others that have been well disguised as bills and the Damart catalogue) I've only ever received one Valentine's card in my life.

This was when I was 15 and at school. It was from a girl called Kerry. She was very lovely and drew a picture on a folded Post It note of some cute creature (a cat I think) holding a heart. Inside it said something like "wishing you a happy Valentine's day", i.e. there was no actual declaration of undying love, just a wish for a happy day.

Despite this, it still warmed my heart. I carried it around in my jacket pocket and proudly showed it to anyone who would look. It was a bit like being a New York detective who would whip out his badge to prove his credentials. If anyone made out that I was in anyway undesirable, I'd produce my crumpled Post It note to prove them wrong. I then frisked them down and sent them away to be processed by the boys in the downtown precinct. 

In my own shambolic way, I then attempted to court Kerry for the last few months we were at school together. I'd casually loiter around the corridor where I knew she'd be having her last lesson of the day, just so I could say 'hi' to her as she filed past with her class mates. 

Just getting a glimpse and a word from her made the long walk home (having missed my bus by hanging around) much more bearable. The first half mile, I was walking on air. The rest of the journey, I was on my last legs (I've never had the gift of athleticism) but still glad I'd seen her nonetheless. 

Eventually, several months down the line - in the Easter holidays if I remember correctly - I summoned the courage to phone up and ask her out. This was long before the days of mobiles and texting. Back then, one had to actually talk to the person of their affection right from the outset. And worse still, there was always the possibility that you'd end up speaking to one of her parents if they were to answer the phone. 

Despite the risks involved, which felt like they may ACTUALLY kill me, I armed myself with a big glass of water to soothe my sandpaper-dry mouth and a little script of what I was going to say. I must have sounded like a telemarketer trying to sell someone double glazing. Except instead of new windows, the product was a dream date to watch 'Look Who's Talking Too' at the local Odeon.

Despite a very wobbly voice and several episodes of hyperventilation, somehow I managed to dupe her into thinking this would be a great idea and she agreed to accompany me. 

My initial euphoria soon turned to sheer terror as I realised that in just a couple of days time, I would be having to, you know, go on a date and stuff. What does one do on these things? Where would this lead? Should I propose before initiating any kind of physical contact? 

I felt both amazingly excited and extremely anxious about what lay before me. I couldn't sleep much, but I was weeing a lot. 

When the fateful day arrived, I got up early and had like three showers or something and washed my hair twice, trying to get it just right (it was 1990 and I had what I hoped were cool spikes, but they probably just looked a bad kind of messy, stuck fast with gel that went flaky before long).

About an hour before I was due to leave, I had a phone call. It was her! She was ever so sorry, but she couldn't make it after all. She had to babysit someone at short notice. 

Was this a genuine thing or had she had an epiphany about what she had agreed to? I guess I should have been upset, but in fact I was elated with relief. What to me was an almighty terrifying task, had just been removed. It was like receiving a stay of execution.

I can't really remember much of what happened after this. I left school to take my GCSEs and only saw her very occasionally. The last encounter I remember with her was at a bus stop a year or so later. I sensed she wasn't at all interested - she had blossomed and was really attractive and clever, so I suspect that she now had lots of fine chaps who could see in her what I always had. Without Twitter or Facebook or mobiles to keep in touch, that was that - we completely lost contact.

As it turns out, 'Look Who's Talking Too' was one of the worst films of all time, so at least I saved some money on that, not to mention the whole dying of embarrassment thing.

Anyway, in conclusion, I know that some people detest Valentine's day for its commercialism and also the pressure some single people feel it puts on them. But it can also be an opportunity to bring people together (even if everything eventually ends up going to rat shit).

I do wonder what St Valentine would make of everything that is now done in his name. I had a quick look on Wikipedia to see what he was like and was struck by the following quote:

"Nothing is reliably known of St. Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14 on Via Flaminia in the north of Rome".

So it turns out that Valentine's Day IS actually nothing but bullshit after all!


Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Application (as in applying for the job, not as in a little preachy widget for your iPhone)

So I’ve decided to apply to be Pope (or is it just ‘pope’ with a little p? Actually, probably quite a lot of p, as he is quite old now - those white robes are very unforgiving). Here is my letter of application:

“Dear Vatican Overlords,

I notice that a vacancy has arisen for the role of pope. I imagine there’s a grander, more formal title attached to the position than just ‘pope’, but let’s not get bogged down in any detail right now. Oh okay then, let’s compromise and settle on ‘Mr Pope’ so as to not to appear disrespectful.

Anyway, I would like to apply for said vacancy. I feel I have many skills to bring to this role and believe I’m exactly what you’re looking for.

Firstly though, let’s clear up one important point up right away; I’m not a Roman Catholic or even a Christian. But does that really matter? Does the Chief Executive of Pedigree Chum eat dog food? Well, given the recent horse meat scandal he possibly does, but that’s only coincidental. A bit like when I bless someone after they have sneezed.

I feel what’s more important is that I have a good heart. Most of my friends will agree with this (references available). Although not all of them perhaps, but then, who would they have to forgive if I wasn’t mean to them? I’m actually giving them an opportunity to be nice and kind, like Jesus was.

Unlike the present incumbent, I’ve never been a Nazi. But I have played as them in some of the older Call of Duty online games, so I have a broad understanding of their values and practices. 

Although I’ve never swung any incense around, I have experimented with joss sticks in my time (but I swear I didn’t inhale). 

If I were to be successful in the role, I would have to stipulate just a few conditions before accepting:

1. I usually enjoy a nice lie in on a Sunday morning. Sunday is a day of rest, so all services will now be carried out on a Wednesday (I need Monday and Tuesday to get over the weekend)

2. I’m not a fan of wine in any way, so Holy Communion will now have the option of Guinness being served instead. The little wafer things aren’t that tasty either, so they will be replaced with Hob-Nobs.

3. The pointy hat looks a bit stupid, so I will continue to wear one ONLY if a law is passed that EVERYONE else also has to wear one. All the time. Same goes for the dress.

4. The whole kissing of the ring thing is a bit weird, so that will be replaced with just a handshake.

5. Oh and no more interfering with kids. And we must become an Equal Opportunities employer. And promote contraception to halt the spread of AIDS and stuff. Basically let’s get with the game, and clean up all the shit in our own house before preaching to others. 

If after considering my application, you feel that I am the right man for the job, please bear in mind that I have to give one month’s notice to my current employer and would prefer to work from home when possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Tobias King


I know you get to choose a new official name when you become Mr Pope - I would like to be “Honor Rope”. 

Thanking you in advance,

Pope Honor Rope I”

Sunday, 10 February 2013

My kind of town...(or 'city' technically)

Having lived here all my life (due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances and bail conditions), I thought I'd share with you some of the highlights of my hometown - Salisbury. Please note, this is Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom - not one of around one million towns in the US by the same name, or the old name for Harare, capital of Zimbabwe. 

You see, for a bit of a backward place, Salisbury has quite a few extraordinary claims to fame and famous children. I promise you that all the details in this post are actual true facts (except for the bit where I mention my forthcoming wedding to Sarah Harding in Salisbury Cathedral). 

(Just for the record, we're actually having a small registry office ceremony)

Firstly, Salisbury is the birthplace of two of the most famous Franks the world has ever seen: Frank 'ooh Betty' Spencer (aka Phantom Of The Opera, Michael Crawford) and really quite bizarrely in my opinion, England and Chelsea stalwart Frank Lampard. Neither have been true to their Wiltshire accents.

Some of the biggest ever movie franchises have a strong Salisbury representation. Firstly, C3PO was born and lives here. To be fair, he's seen better days and you can often find him staggering out of Robert Dyas with a six pack of WD40 to take home and enjoy whilst reading the Screwfix catalogue. 

Ralph Fiennes was educated at Salisbury's grammar school for boys. You heard me right people, Voldemort learnt all his evil ways right here. Rumour has it that that his nose fell off during a particularly physical game of rugby and on the night of each full moon, it can still be heard sneezing (on rainy nights, you can even feel the droplets on your face). Thankfully, Voldemort has now become a goody, having taken up the role of James Bond's boss 'M'. 

Another star of the screen to first slither into existence in my city was John Rhys-Davies. He was the arab guy with the little hat and beard called Sallah in the Indiana Jones films and also Gimli in Lord of the Rings. In real life, he's not actually a dwarf (or a wearer of a funny hat).

Lord of the Rings, kind of leads me onto Lord of the Flies (which it turns out is about some kids going all tribal on an island and not about some guy with the best zip in his trousers ever). The Nobel Prize winning author of LOTF, William Golding, taught in the very same school that Voldemort went to.

Incidentally, this school is just a stones throw from where Handel composed some of his music back when he was like the Jay Z of his day. The drum n bass remix of his Water Music is well dope.

And slightly (but only slightly) more modern music also has a Salisbury connection. Mick Fleetwood of Mickfood Mac, no, I mean Fleetwood Mick, no Macwood Flick - oh you know the one - was brought up here. As was Dave Dee from Dave Dee, Dozy, Sleepy and Grumpy or whatever they were called.

Sting has a house in Salisbury! Well, it's just outside Salisbury in a little place just up the road from where I live called Wilsford Cum Lake. Yep, that is honestly what it's called. And given all that tantric sex he does, it's probably quite apt.

I'm not sure if he sings or not (I reckon he probably does when in pantomime and the shower), but Christopher Biggins grew up here. His brother still does and rents a room off a friend of a friend. 

The oldest part of Salisbury (called Old Sarum) has a lot of history associated with it - far more than I can list here. Or that I can remember if I'm honest. But one thing that does stick in my mind is that William the Conqueror used to hang out in the castle that was once there (it's now just some old bits of stone with English Heritage posters on the wall). 

With all the archaeology knocking around these parts, it's lucky that Salisbury is also home to Phil Harding from Time Team. He's the one with a hat and who gets really excited by old flint and stained mud. He can often be seen wandering around and always wears the same hat. Whilst he's obviously incredibly passionate and clever, I can't help thinking that he probably smells. Especially on a hot day after lots of trowel scraping and an exciting find.

You're probably thinking after reading this post that it's not possible for anyone humorous or funny to come from Salisbury. Well my friend, you'd be wrong, assuming that is, you find David Mitchell funny. I think he's funny. I like him in Peep Show and that thing on Channel 4 with Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr and that Geordie lass. He was actually born just one day before me. And has a beard. And that's where the similarities end really.

After mentioning some famous births, it seems fitting to end this post with a couple of notable deaths this city has seen. 

Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott died in the city's old hospital. It has since been converted into apartments and old people's flats. Someone now eats dinner or sleeps or washes in the space where Phil moved on to the big concert in the sky. And also in the same space I once had a rectal examination. Wonder if they'll ever put up a blue plaque to commemorate this when I'm famous?

Former PM (as in prime minister, not afternoon) Edward Heath lived out his final years in a big house in the cathedral close. You wouldn't really have know he lived there if it wasn't for the constant presence of armed police and the massive neon light-up sign he used to switch on at night that said, "I used to be leader of this bloody country you know".

So there we are folks, Salisbury in a nutshell. I didn't even have room for Britain's tallest cathedral spire, an original copy of the magna carter and the oldest working clock in existence. To be fair, the clock doesn't have a face, so crikey knows how you're supposed to tell the time. Let's relabel that one as the "world's oldest collection of rusty cogs and pulleys".

Anyway, you should all come and visit here sometime. Just ignore the young couples who look like they're actually siblings and the screams of whoever's turn it is to be sacrificed to keep the gods from sending us a plague of flaming locusts (which you may mock, but we've never had one yet, so screw you science).

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I kicked the hornet nest and the hornets had guns

About three weeks ago on Twitter, I posted a tweet that provoked a huge reaction. Even now, it is still occasionally being Re-Tweeted and has been shared nearly 500 times the last I looked. 

It was my reaction to the National Rifle Association's (the right wing group that ferociously supports gun ownership within the US) response to the horrific slaughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School children in Connecticut. Their remedy to this most dreadful of events was to suggest placing an armed guard or two in every school in that country.

Not unlike many people, the thought of this horrified me. When you're living in a land of over 11,000 gun related murders a year, the thought of trying to remedy this by introducing even more guns defies logic. Plus it's all the worse when you consider the potential consequences of having guns permanently within such close proximity to groups of children. When did fighting fire with fire solve anything?

One of the main arguments gun enthusiasts use to justify their ownership is of course the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution - the decree that the public may bear arms (despite the fact that two centuries ago, guns were more like pea shooters and incapable of inflicting mass casualties in a short period of time). It's this entrenched mindset that I really sought to question and so my tweet read thus:

"Maybe within the evolution of a peaceful society, a right that was written 225 years ago, has now been outgrown & become unnecessary"

Now, expressing something that you feel quite deeply about in just 140 characters is not always an easy task, especially for someone like me who could answer even a simple question like whether I wanted a cup of tea with a couple of sides of A4, weighing up the pros (nice taste and health benefits) and cons (making me get up in the night to wee like a race horse). And yet this forced brevity cuts out the waffley fat and compels you to choose each word carefully. 

The point I really wanted to get across was that nothing in life is permanent and set in stone. Everything changes. Even the most worthwhile beliefs and rules eventually outlive their usefulness and have to adapt and change themselves in order to remain effective. Even a constitutional right shouldn't, in my opinion, contribute to or justify the horrendous slaughter of innocent people (whether that be in a school, cinema, shopping mall or wherever).

Of course, I appreciated that this kind of stance would not be to everyone's taste. This is why I tried to frame it in a really gentle way. The 'maybe' at the start, is just an invitation to give this idea some thought. I'm not suggesting it's definitely right. All I would want is for people to consider the possibility that there are good reasons to make some changes and ponder on what the best course of action might be, rather than jumping automatically back into a mindset that has been passed onto them for generations that almost worships this type of weaponry.

It's hard to say for sure, but the feeling I got (and that's all I have to base this on, nothing more concrete) was that the vast majority of people who shared this tweet were sympathetic to the intention behind it. This really encourages me, but I wasn't looking to preach to the converted on this issue. I really wanted to sow a seed of possibility in the minds of those people who aren't usually open to considering other points of view.

And boy oh boy did my tweet reach those people! Whether it did anything to change their minds on anything by even a micron I will never know. It's entirely possible it just made them more defensive and fixed in their views than ever. Who can say? But I'm pleased to have made some kind of contribution to the debate if nothing else. 

you can’t say that, it’ll end free speech

As expected, I received many, many responses from outraged citizens of the US who were enraged by what I had suggested.

One of the main reactions was to deflect away from the debate entirely and suggest that by adjusting or removing the 2nd amendment, we may as well do away with the whole constitution altogether, especially the 1st amendment relating to free speech. 

I found this really interesting. Instead of having a debate on gun controls, which given the circumstances was desperately needed and sensible to have, many gun supporters tried to move the discussion onto a thoroughly ridiculous proposition - the removal of free speech.

Pretty much everybody would agree that free speech is a wonderful thing that should be encouraged. Of course I wasn't suggesting any change to that. But I guess it's easier to argue against someone who is proposing something absolutely ludicrous, rather than the point in hand.

peace? what peace?

Another popular comeback was based around my suggestion that society is peaceful. Many people argued that we actually live in a dreadfully violent society and therefore "we need guns now more than ever".

I appreciate that this may have been easy to misinterpret - especially given that the way most people consume information on Twitter happens very rapidly, often with little attention paid to the subtle details. The key here was to read and understand the word 'evolution' as well. 

I'm not saying that society is entirely peaceful. Obviously it varies from place to place and time to time, depending on a wide variety of circumstances. It was more a suggestion that the aspiration of any civilisation is to grow and develop into as peaceful a place as possible. All citizens benefit from this and my belief is that deep down in the hearts of us all, we desire peace and harmony. Although there is drama and trouble on the surface of our lives much of the time, stability and peace is a state we would all like to strive for.

In summary, 'evolution of a peaceful society' points to where we would like to go, not where we are right now.

why do you even care a bunch of kids got killed?

Although it went largely unnoticed by many of my correspondents, some did realise that I was British (a 'red coat' according to some). Why are you even interested in any of this, they asked. I explained that, the culture of the US is pervasive, seeping into most of the rest of the world. Not to mention that a school massacre had just taken place and maybe an impartial observer is better placed to offer some ideas on how to solve the problem. 

This met with one of the most disturbing responses I received to my tweet. The gist of it was that school massacres happen all the time, everywhere. It's only because the USA is so prominent that theirs gets world attention. Basically, the Sandy Hook incident was just an everyday occurrence across the globe. A symptom of modern society that can be brushed off like car accidents and spam emails.

was Jesus packing a piece?

A fairly common characteristic of the gun supporters who contacted me was, according to their Twitter bios, that they were Christian. 

Now, the last thing I want to do is get embroiled in a religious debate. But it did occur to me that, so far as I understand it, Jesus never carried a weapon. His teachings of forgiveness and healing, of 'turning the other cheek' seems to me to be a philosophy at odds with someone who wishes to mete out their own justice with a firearm. 

I was genuinely interested to see how people squared these two conflicting views, but unfortunately, the conversation was always terminated by them before an answer was offered.

it's just not cricket 

My communications also revealed many, what I would describe as 'misconceptions'. It worried me that that these were sincerely held views, genuinely believed by those who offered them.

For example, someone was convinced that in the UK, 'the weapon of choice is a baseball bat'. This person thought that, because every normal person would want to arm themselves, in this country where private gun ownership is minuscule, we all have a baseball bat under our beds.

When I pointed out that I know of nobody here who owns a baseball bat, they conceded that it must, in that case be a cricket bat that we all have instead (alas I’ve not owned one of these since I was 12). They then entered into a conversation with a fellow gun enthusiast about the pros and cons of a baseball bat versus a cricket bat as a weapon. For the record, it was decided that whilst the cricket bat had some sharper edges, a baseball bat had overall better balance.

Another genuinely held belief by one person was that, 'in Sweden, everyone carries a gun or two' and thus ownership was far more prevalent there than in the US. I actually felt compelled to check the statistics on this one. It transpired that the US actually has three times more guns owned per person. 

delusions of grandeur

The biggest and to me, saddest misconception of them all was that public gun ownership is needed so that people may defend themselves from a tyrannical government. I was sent posters depicting heads of state from history who enforced gun control and then killed masses of the populace. I tried to point out that these were dictators of countries where all freedoms had been removed or never existed.

Many, many of the gun supporters genuinely seem to feel that they are the only thing keeping the US government at bay by owning their weapons. If they didn't have them, that would be that, the government would start killing and using the people as they saw fit.

These people actually believe that if push came to shove, they would be able to defend themselves against the might of an organised army with gunships, tanks and goodness knows what other hardware at their disposal.

A bit like with the conversation about Jesus, I never received an answer once I put forward the idea that if the US government truly wanted to, they could become a tyrannical regime tomorrow, regardless of how many citizens have guns to hand.

The fear and paranoia displayed by the people I communicated with was alarming. Combined with ignorance (not to mention terrible grammar) the fact that these people own guns seems wrong on so many levels.

I just hope that somewhere out there is a gun owner or two who are truly brave enough to say, 'enough is enough' and lay down their weapon. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Remember me?

Blog fans! I'm back. Wait, let me start that again.

Blog fan! I'm back.

Not that this is an actual proper blog post. More just a brief 'hello' before I post a proper entry in the next few days.

I've got one brewing in the back of my mind, but as yet, it hasn't funnelled through to my fingers. But I didn't want to start it with a 'hi!, I've not seen you for ages' and then ramble on and on for a few paragraphs before getting to the main point.

Don't for one minute think I'm going to get all concise and punchy though - I can't help but witter on in a verbose way, meandering through various tangents whilst trying to make my point.

I just thought it'd make sense to reintroduce myself and remind you that I've not died or anything (unless I actually have and this is being channeled through someone who looks ever so much like I did when I was alive - so much so that they've been taken in by my family and been fed and given Christmas presents and everything).

As with most of the creative pastimes I pursue, blogging was a real craze of mine for a couple or three months where I posted every day or two. But then, as the darker evenings came in and my natural instincts turned towards hibernation, I fell off a bit of a creative cliff and suddenly stopped writing. I went blog cold turkey.

It's not that I couldn't think of what to write - my mind is usually abuzz with all manner of crazy clutter I'm only too happy to share (isn't that right Twitter buddies?). It's more that sitting down and actually writing the thing seemed akin to climbing Mount Everest (or at least quite a long, steep staircase that there's nothing much at the top of and my knees are playing up).

My creative energy and motivation does dry up from time to time and this was one of those times. Things that I enjoy so much usually - writing, painting, photography etc - become chores that I cannot face. I can understand why some artists turn to drink, drugs or sex at times like these. I just slept a lot and played with myself occasionally.

Anyway. Keep yours eyes open for a new post in the coming days. Unless of course, this is merely a blip and you don't hear from me again for a few months. Who can say? But at least I get a chance to wish you all a happy new year!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

It may never happen...

I was watching some excerpts of one of Ross Kemp's programmes on Sky One the other day. I can't remember what the series is called, but it must be something like "Ross Kemp Visits Some Real Shit Holes", because the abject poverty and desperate tales of abuse and destitution were genuinely distressing and very moving. It's so easy to forget that even in present day Britain or the US, there are people whose lives are based around survival in the most squalid conditions.

In one scene, Kemp visited a man living in an abandoned, hurricane damaged house in New Orleans. Was it living in conditions, that even the least fussy rat would object to, that had lead to him suffering from what were clearly severe mental health problems? Or was it this very illness that had lead him there in the first place? Probably a combination of the two, creating a very viscous circle.

Thankfully, as often seems to be the way even in the most desperate of conditions, a group of volunteers tended to this unfortunate chap and the many others like him. It was genuinely humbling to see the essence of human spirit that deep down, cares for those less fortunate than ourselves, in action. For every Mark Bridger, there are many many more decent people who are actively supporting various good causes and it does my heart good to remember this.

Kemp spoke with one of these outreach workers and described that among the many other dreadful things that people like the mentally ill chap had to endure, was living an existence that was not even as good as 'day-to-day' but more like 'second-to-second'.

Now, I know exactly what he meant by this and it's true that a situation devoid of hope like this one, is impossible for most of us to imagine. But the phrase 'living day-to-day' and it's even uglier cousin, 'second-by-second', reminded me of the times that people have said that to me as they've sympathised with a predicament that I've been in - usually the pain caused by chronic ill health.

But in actual fact, illness and all the other various mental and emotional pains we humans get to experience during a typical lifetime, have given me plenty alongside the bits they've apparently taken away. One of the greatest gifts is actually the very thing which most people use to label unfortunate people in an undesirable situation, and that is 'living moment by moment'.

Far from being some kind of affliction, it has actually brought the greatest freedom imaginable. My experience has been that releasing my aspirations to achieve certain goals in the future that would yield happiness once achieved, and instead focusing my attention on what's happening right here, right now, has revealed a really quite magical world where happiness and many other positive emotions bubble up to be enjoyed immediately.

I'm not saying it's all a wonderful rose garden. Sometimes sitting quietly whilst taking notice of what's here is extremely unpleasant. But by giving it our full attention, you do get to see it for what it is. Somehow this lessens it's power and I have found this to be genuinely healing.

It's not always easy to keep focused on the present moment. Our minds appear to be predestined to try and run off and imagine various possibilities and fantasies that are anywhere but right here. We live in a culture where this is seen as normal and often encouraged - especially through aspirational marketing that is so prevalent.

At one time, this may have been part of a survival mechanism in order to help cut off the myriad of possible dangers faced by early man, before they happened.

And even now, it's nice to let your mind go and play with various concepts and have fun in an imaginary world. But when it does this of its own accord, all of the time, and dwells on worries and possible calamities, it ain't half wearing. I have found that being able to choose to spend a little while back 'here' is amazingly nourishing and therapeutic.

I had found myself scrabbling towards this conclusion myself, when, towards the end of the nineties, the Universe gave me a big old helping shove in the right direction.

I was in a bookshop when suddenly, a book actually appeared to come off the shelf and float in front of me! I think this was actually because of my eye moving rapidly from one place to another in quick succession rather than anything more mystical, but it got my attention nonetheless.

The book was called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (for Londoners, you may know it as 'The Pah of Nah'). The title was a little bit off putting to start with. Usually a book in the self-help section with the word 'Power' in it suggests how you can harness something to achieve your own goals; to basically get your own way. But I still felt drawn to it and in actual fact, you couldn't find a book less centred on letting the ego try to run your world.

It's focus is on just observing what's happening, right now, in a non-judgemental way. It's about accepting what's happening as it is. For me, it was such a relief to find someone with a point of view that was similar to my own - I was fed up and worn out trying to get the world to fit in with the way I wanted things to be.

I must have bought about two dozen copies for friends and family over the years. Whatever your situation, these are just some guiding words to encourage you to take notice of what's happening right now. You don't have to buy into any belief system. In fact belief, or faith are completely irrelevant here. It's all about your own practical experience, right now. Don't rely on what anyone else tells you is good or bad or any other judgemental label, just be aware of what you're doing, of what's going on.

I like how right now, I am typing these words on my iPad on a Sunday afternoon. And yet also right now, you are reading these words, whenever that may be. It could be days, weeks or years in between these two events in our conventional understanding of time. But ultimately, they both happen right now. Everything happens right now. There is nothing other than right now. You can imagine your next holiday, or you can relive the one you had last year, but what's really happening is that you're sat there, accessing various parts of your brain in the present moment.

Despite our very best efforts, we can never escape now. So spend a while focusing on what's here and let it be.

If any of this resonates with you, why not check out the book for yourself? (available here on Amazon for example)

There are many other helpful guides like this, but I have found it to be the best introduction to, what for many of us, is a very different way of looking at things.

There is also a 'lite' version called Practising The Power Of Now which strips down the essence of the original book into more digestible bite-sized pieces for those who prefer it that way.

These books are also available on Kindle and iBooks etc.

Whether you're blissfully happy, or going through some kind of turmoil, I really hope that these, or the philosophy they contain, help reveal a new dimension within your own life, like I found they did in mine.