Monday, 6 May 2019

International Tin Foil Hat Day!

In an increasingly crazy world where reality and conspiracy theory are blurring, and even seemingly interchangeable at times and fake news also abounds, sometimes the only sane response is to don a tin foil hat!

I'll be joining the Worried Woke for a civilised but light-hearted silent protest march to mark International Tin Foil Hat Day on Monday 13 May.

It starts at noon from cafe at Hove Lagoon and ends up at Brighton Pier.

Dress code: Silver tin foil hat and top to toe black, white or silver. Dogs also welcome, preferably wearing tin foil hats!

Not all 'progress' is in the human interest. Let's question everything and stop sleepwalking into a world we don't necessarily want.

Facebook page here. www.facebook.com/groups/651056781994759/


Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A Week In An Almost-Perfect World

We have just returned from a week's European cruise to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday on the P&O Ventura. She had never been on a cruise ship before (unless you count a converted troop ship in her 20s) so it seemed the perfect landmark experience to mark the occasion.

Moreover it removed all the stresses and strains of having to think about food such as shopping, cooking and four different people consuming four different diets. Then there was the delight of only having to unpack once and the convenience of not having to walk too far for the member of our party with arthritic knees. Indeed we noticed a high number of passengers with disabilities, including children. It was the ideal holiday option for those with mobility issues with access to all public areas and abundant lifts throughout. It was also the ideal holiday option for parents who could leave their kids in the Kid's Club until 11.45pm at night. Every beaming child I met simply couldn't get enough of Kids Club!

Everyone looked happy from old to young and I didn't hear a single mention of Brexit for the entire week.

Two days in and I was seriously wondering why P&O were not running the country, so well organised was everything. The Captain's word was law and operated within Maritime Law (taken 100% seriously) and he ran a benign dictatorship. Attending the emergency drill upon boarding was not optional, but imposed with the lightest of touches. If you didn't have your cruise card swiped to prove you had attended, you would have to attend a special one just for you! Getting on and off at various ports was treated similarly seriously. You had to be swiped in and out with your bags checked upon re-boarding, passport at the ready.

Every night a print newspaper was hand delivered to the rack next to your cabin door which detailed the following day's activities/excursions and was avidly devoured cover to cover by all on board as encouraged by the Captain, to be carried around in bags and pockets and frequently consulted. We subsequently realised there must be an onboard printing press when they had to make last minute changes.

While an up-to-the-minute cruise ship on the exterior, it was touchingly old school in terms of the onboard activities, swimming, table tennis, shows, talks, cinema, casino, shopping, theatre, eating, drinking, pool parties, 4-channel TV (unless you count the Ventura channels, one of which was the front mast camera, for those without a window cabin). Everyone was literally forced to talk to each other and interact. In some cases, re-connect. If you were determined not to get away from it all, shipboard wifi chuntered along at dialup speed, if you could be bothered to pay £12.50 for a 24hr package.

Talking to fellow cruisers it became apparent that they adored this Britain as it should be on sea for a week, dipping a toe into other cultures, but basically eating their own food, and getting back onboard for dinner if they could. More seasoned cruisers had indeed often given up on destinations not reachable by cruise ship. Far too much trouble. Yet everyone we met was affable and in their element and they all had interesting tales to tell and cruise tips to share. We learned that the best tomatoes in the world grow in the volcanic soil of Iceland, but the Icelanders won't export them (or allow other tomatoes to be imported lest the strain be tainted), You have to visit Iceland to sample the best tomato soup in the world.

The afternoon tea was the killer. Luckily we only made it twice owing to shore excursions but we felt bloated for hours afterwards. Rather sweetly there was a daily afternoon tea for solo passengers to meet and socialise too. There were black tie or theme dinners on a number of evenings, which made an occasion of the evening - and obviously gave a good excuse to take portraits and sell photos!

The service was amazing, to the extent that sometimes plates and cups were whipped away a little too enthusiastically! Each day your cabin would be made up with fresh bedding and towels (including pool towels) and each night, your steward would turn down your bed covers and leave a chocolate on each pillow. Many of the crew were international and seasoned cruisers told us that cruise ship jobs were much prized by the Filipinos in particular who would work long days for 3-5 years on cruise ships and then be able to go home and buy a plot of land or build a house for themselves, which would otherwise remain an impossible dream in their homeland. The ship would also pay for them to fly home to their families and take shore leave fairly regularly in between times, though it was obviously tough for those with children to be away from them for so long. Tips were built into your daily cruise charges, which, when you counted up the cost for a week were amazing value compared to staying in a luxury hotel without everything included for the same amount of time.

Our excursions into Europe were revealing. Tour guides used such alien phrases as 'my country' and proceeded to reel off lists of achievements and products of their country, with undisguised pride. We drove through miles and miles of industrial landscapes where real people did real jobs before reaching the pearls of Bruges and Amsterdam (many Europeans have the good sense to build the ugly and workaday stuff outside of their historic centres with very little creeping into the hallowed tourist areas).

Health and Safety legislation has clearly passed the rest of Europe by as we observed a clog maker turn a pair of wooden clogs in four minutes, minus safety goggles or guards and without handing out any goggles to the audience, some of whom were hit by wood shavings. In Bruges, boatloads of tourists admired the vistas of unspoiled heritage from 14th-19th century without a single life jacket between them, including us, once we finally boarded a boat. Rather amusingly as we got up to disembark following our bi-lingual canal tour by a Peter Sellers lookalike, I saw some discreet stickers inside the boat indicating a figure wearing a life jacket. We were also driven to Amsterdam by a coach driver clearly slightly off his bonce on weed, making inappropriate jokes about the sex lives of dead nuns in broken English as he managed to forget where he was dropping us off. The real hazard in Amsterdam though were the cyclists who literally come at you from all directions at once. And then there's the trams and normal traffic jostling for position. Luckily few people in the city appear to have given in to mobile or headphone addiction, much as they might be prone to other temptations. Talking of which many of the locals came across as rude with a tendency to just barge into each other, or shove each other out of the way, no apologies. Whatever the arguments for and against, weed certainly turns people into a-holes on the manners front and stinks out whole streets and cafes in places. Graffiti too seems on the rise since my last visit to Amsterdam, though at least all the shops appear to be thriving and I didn't see a single homeless person, just a half-hearted beggar bin hoaking. There was a decided lack of public toilets in Amsterdam (unless you count the open air pissoirs (no handwashing facilities) for men and not a chemist to be found! The red light district appeared to have expanded into the most unlikely backwater streets. We even passed a middle-aged lady in her scanties sitting in the window of a deserted side-street at 3pm on a Monday afternoon. Was she offering an OAP discount at that time of the day? Were the users of the street pissoirs made to wash their hands, or indeed anything else, before procuring her services? The mind boggled.

The main thing about Amsterdam is that everything is much further away than it seems with a confusing road layout so buying a Metro ticket is a must to explore the city by tram or you can easily see only a small part of the city and not get the most out of your visit. There are also many streets and canals that are inaccessible by Metro and taxi, though you can intersect them with these. My mother had always wanted to visit the Anne Frank house but found most of the tickets were sold online up to two months ahead of time with only a small proportion of tickets sold on the day, a ready made queue of several hundred for them, so sadly she did not get her wish. My partner wanted to visit the Van Gogh museum but extraordinarily found out all tickets had been pre-sold for the next three days! Digital exclusion is alive and well.

Ah well at least the Puss-in-Boats - the world's only floating cat sanctuary couldn't disappoint. Could it? Sadly it was only open for two hours a day and the queue was enormous! Though I did catch a glimpse of pussy from the other side of the canal where there was a glass side to the boat.

Bruges was gorgeous. And tasted as good as it looked. I spent most of my Euros on a selection of fruit-centred choccies from one of the leading chocolatiers whose cafe we had earlier sampled across the street. Ponies and traps were the best way to get around and there were proud shiny horses of every hue, including piebald, trotting smartly through the cobbled streets, some with trendy two-tone manes and all with a pooper scooper trailing behind, much like a lawnmower tray. Unlike Amsterdam, there were chemists everywhere, even in the picturesque main square and public toilets were also plentiful, quaintly marked male and female.

The odd thing about Bruges was that despite its picturesqueness, its cleanliness, its lack of graffiti, prosperous shops and lack of homeless and beggars, there was a frequent stench of drains to be found round many corners, though the reason for this remained a mystery.

The only charity shop we saw during our travels was a branch of Oxfam in Bruges, which sold fair trade products, not second hand products. It seems the continent does not really do charity shops (as I noticed in France, some time ago).

While I am not sure I could spend weeks or even months on a cruise ship (or one day aspire to become one those urban legend old ladies who apparently flee to one for the rest of their lives, in preference to an infinitely duller and more financially ruinous nursing home), I would certainly cruise again, if only for the separate vegan/vegetarian menus now available on board!. I think it would have to be the Fjords next time. It is also an interesting example of community living, with some people forming lifelong friendships aboard in addition to reconnecting with families they otherwise almost need to make appointments to see in our frenetic modern lives.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A Climate of Climate Change

When I was a child I remember being scared rigid by children's encyclopedias warning me there would be no oil, coal or gas in 20 years time. Fossils were finite, apparently, and we greedy humans were to blame by using them all up.
But how will we live? I used to wonder.

Fast forward more than 30 years later - and guess what? We are still using oil, gas (and imported) coal. We have just sold our electricity off to the French, Spanish and Germans and closed our coal mines down in favour of cheaper (imported) coal.
So much for national energy and food security - once considered so vital to our country by 'the experts' - all of which now appears to have gone out the window.

Today's children are being similarly scared that the whole world is running out of everything and somehow they are to blame.

I consider this monstrously unfair, particularly when they have so many more pressures to contend with than my generation of children - bullying via social media for example, a 50% family split rate, the thought that they may never own their own home, among others.

Now children are being encouraged to skip school to take part in climate change protests.
Is anyone telling them the truth though?
Actually kids, yes, the world is in a mess, but it's not your fault.
What you can do to help though is lobby your government to ban cheap imports and anything which is not repairable or recyclable. You can take a stand against a throwaway society which encourages you to over-consume, unchecked and largely unregulated.

It is then just a matter of being sensible in your own homes.Switch it off if you're not using it, have 4-minute showers, wear a jumper before you put the heating up, boycott single-season fashions.  Think about the number of flights your family takes, walk and cycle as much as possible, etc etc. If you have a garden, cultivate it for the bees and butterflies, grow your own organic food and plant a tree or two if space permits. And don't upgrade your devices just because you can. Make them last as long as possible.

If every family embraced simple commonsense measures to consider the environment, what an instantly much better world it would be. None of us need to have a complicated understanding of environmental issues. We just need to do our bit and being sensible is about the best thing anyone can do. My grandparents didn't know the meaning of the world environmentalism but were greener than anyone I know - purely out of economic necessity and scarcity - see poem I wrote about them here. People can be green by simply not wasting stuff is a message I think is often lost these days.

And yes, we do need to be more responsible in terms of overpopulation - to prevent it in future - not to penalise those already here. Ensure the entire world has access to free contraception for starters. Ban free fertility treatment. Give people a tax break for remaining child-free or adopting a child who needs a good home. Economic incentives are a proven mass behavioural influencer.

We also need to beware of greenwash and unnecessary fear mongering. This doesn't help anyone, particularly if youngsters end up so paralysed by fear, they become medicated or turn to addictions rather than growing into fully functioning members of society ready to do something genuinely useful with their sense of social responsibility, their 'wokeness'.

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Oxymoron of Mandatory Organ Donation

From 2020 the NHS will assume we are happy to donate any or all of our organs unless we have 'opted out' and organ donation in UK will become mandatory.

How does that work? A donation is a voluntary gesture. A voluntary gesture is no longer a voluntary gesture if it is made mandatory.

From the number of online commentators supposedly unbothered by this change in their status from living human being (which you need to be in most cases in order to have your organs successfully harvested) to property of the state to use as it sees fit, one could easily assume there should be no shortage of genuine organ donors.

So why this mandatory move? What are the NHS doing wrong that so many altruists are not having their wishes respected with regard to organ donation? In other words, why the shortage of organ donors?

And what of those of us who wish not to be donors? How do we ensure our wishes are respected, whether for religious or ethical reasons? Or those who are perhaps happy for say, their kidneys, to be donated, but not their eyes, skin, bones, face etc?

And will our government adopt the DVLA approach to human beings like they do with vehicles in that we are designated the 'keepers' of our cars rather than the owners, so the state can theoretically seize our cars at any time. Will we simply become the 'keepers' rather than the owners of our own bodies?

I remember when we were simply asked to carry a kidney donor card. Now, rather like the taxman, they want the lot!

I foresee a time, possibly within a decade from now, when every human body will be routinely cannibalised, sorry, harvested, of all useable and saleable parts with a whole macabre international trade in body parts springing up in UK, the prime cuts of course, reserved for the super rich. We also live in a world which increasingly seeks to make money out of we human beings to the zenith - literally from the cradle to the grave. AND sell off our NHS to boot.

Yet another nail in the coffin of the sanctity of life and respect for individuals and their wishes.

Not surprisingly this change to the Organ Donor Act is linked to the emotive case of two blonde, blue eyed angels, one alive thanks to the death of the other, dubbed 'Max and Keira's Law'. A tragic case to be sure but also a success story in so far as organ donation worked in this case, so why the need for a law named after these children which compromises the human rights of the rest of us? It smacks of emotional blackmail.

To echo another rallying cry 'My body. My right to choose!' I for one have zero confidence in a so-called 'opt out' system when none of us have any idea of the manner or mode of our deaths and it will probably be a case of 'Act first. Ask questions later', particularly when donation decisions need to be made so quickly in order for most organs to be viable when they require a still-beating heart.

Oh, and by the way, in case you weren't bothered by your organs being harvested around a still-beating heart, there is no such thing as 'brain death' according to Dr Byrne (video here)

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Improvements Which Make Thing Worse

The Germans have a word for improvements which make things worse. Verschlimmbesserung. 

Britain desperately needs that word!

Here are just a few of the Verschlimmbesserungs our country has committed:

  • Care in the Community 
  • Deregulating the banks
  • Derivative trading
  • Outsourcing
  • Privitisation of public services including prisons and the Post Office.
  • PFI (Private Finance Initiative which offers shiny new hospitals and schools for no investment up front which will in reality be paid for many scores of times over out of the public purse, in some cases beyond the predicted lifespan of the new building).
  • Health and Safety (to the point that few people risk doing anything useful, even saving lives).
  • Deregulation of public sector pay at senior levels to attract 'the brightest and the best' - leading to no discernible leadership improvement in most sectors, but a lot of extra cost and the knock-on effect of demotivation to those working for the same bodies on a fraction of the salary.
  • Getting rid of Grammar Schools (the best route for disadvantaged children to social mobility)
  • Liverpool Care Pathway (posh term for killing the elderly).
  • Selling off industry and assets - at the expense of national food and energy security.
  • Pushing for a cashless and contactless society and driving everything online under the guise of 'convenience'
  • Encouraging the rise of the individual at the expense of a cohesive and caring society.
  • Mass immigration (not to be confused with a healthy and sustainable level of immigration)
  • Joining the EU without a public referendum in the first place, which would have avoided the current Brexit shambles.
  • Political Correctness - yes we needed to end racism, sexism and homophobia - but 'safe spaces', 'trigger warnings' and 'no platforming' of controversial speakers, and on no legal basis, is ridiculous. History has taught us that discussing and debating issues is the healthy way to resolve them rather than denying they exist or driving them underground.
  • Smart Motorways (proven to be more dangerous with no hard shoulder)
  • Extra brilliant headlights (might be better for driver but cause more accidents due to dazzling other drivers).
  • Smart meters - more expensive energy, you pay for the meter in your bills, cannot change suppliers easily and there may be health implications.
  • Long life bulbs - which don't last any longer, give a horrible light and are unrecycleable.
  • Digital radio - more radio stations but poor quality and half the country cannot get it!


I suppose we have the term counter-intuitive, but that does not really encapsulate this syndrome quite as well.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Cafe From Hell

My union is very proud of itself. It is introducing a 'menopause cafe' at my workplace which women 'of all ages' are encouraged to attend to learn about the menopause and support each other and...wait for it...men are invited too, in the spirit of inclusivity!

Call me strange, but I would sooner pull my own toenails out one by one, even if I were at that stage in life, than join such a cafe, let alone tell my boss all about my intimate bodily functions in the expectation of special treatment.

Nor would I wish a condition to define me, should I be unlucky enough to suffer it. 'What do you remember most about _______?' 'Oh, I remember she had very bad menopause symptoms.'
Some gift to the world, huh?

Notwithstanding, women who are having a bad menopause are advised to cut caffeine and sugar out of their diet as this could exacerbate symptoms! Therefore a cafe is the last place they should go!

I also wonder how women who don't have to work for a living fare compared to women who do work. Do those who don't have a symptom-free change of life? What if it is all down to workplace stress? Of which there is no shortage where I work, so perhaps they should think about a more pertinent type of cafe.

For me a 'menopause cafe' is disempowering as it makes women 'the problem' yet again, discourages employers from employing us and does not fit with either equality or 'dignity at work', which we are all legally entitled to. Yet again we are returned to victimhood status owing to our gender. This level of overshare in the workplace is an equally unattractive prospect to me. Some things should remain between you and your loved one (or doctor).

Moreover there are plenty of alternative treatments on offer, or, if the worst comes to the worst, the dreaded HRT.

Interestingly it seems menopause symptoms are an invention of the 20th century and our 19th century ancestors did not suffer them. Too much artificial food, chemical and stress bombardment in our lives perhaps? Just look at how diabetes, obesity, allergies and other conditions have skyrocketed within living memory.

Men are known for mid-life crises. What cafes and special treatment will they be offered when they enter the womenpause, I wonder? Will women also be welcome to come along and understand what they are going through? And do men receive a constant steam of patronising cards through the post reminding them to have a 'scrotum scrape' every three years and that 'an appointment has been made for you' etc as if they are incapable of making an appointment for themselves should they want it?

The mind boggles.


Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Flash Fiction

A couple of recent attempts at Flash Fiction. 

Denial

'Attached entity? What a load of rubbish. You need help!' exclaimed the young man to the medium, after she stopped him in the supermarket.
The oleaginous winged creature clinging to his back shook with grotesque laughter, before urging him past the food to the booze aisle to fill his trolley.

Day Off

The microchip in his arm pulsed and a voice in his head announced. 'You're not needed at work today Trevor. Have the day off and report for extermination at 6.30pm at Endings walk-in centre. We've uploaded a credit for the last meal of your choice.'
'Ah well, you can't argue with progress...' reasoned Trevor.

                                                                                         ©LS King 2019


Monday, 25 February 2019

McMafia

Tonight we went to see Misha Glenny, the BBC journalist whose book McMafia inspired the TV series.

Strangely enough my partner and I had binge-watched John Le Carre's 'The Night Manager' earlier in the week and as I listened to the soothing English public school tones of Glenny, I briefly wondered if he was actually a Richard Roper on the side, knowing what he knows about organised crime and worldwide rackets. Who better after all?

Disappointingly there was a lot about geopolitics and very little about actual crime, let alone mention of a single death threat. Surely all these criminals did not simply tell Glenny the journalist about their criminal shenanigans, who was only going to tell the world and potentially ruin the scams they had going!

The nearest we got to drama was the mention of a Chinese girl gripping his arm in a nightclub in Dubai and trying to strong ch-arm him into her services. Like all good journalists Glenny said he 'made his excuses' and left.

It was not hugely surprising that London turns out to be the world centre for money laundering. We have all seen those former palaces in Kensington rotting away empty, purchased by foreign powers unknown and we all know that almost every new block going up to ruin London is being advertised off-plan to foreign investors almost exclusively, sometimes to never even be visited by them but act as their gold bars in the sky. Our property market in particular stinks and there is more than simple dysfunction or shortage at play. It was good that largely thanks to McMafia a new 'unexplained wealth order' is coming in. Though this only goes part-way to addressing the fact that the super-rich seem to be repeatedly let off the tax and money-laundering laws the rest of us are zealously held to.

In a world where we clearly all need our wits about us to avoid the scammers and exploiters who await us at every turn, Glenny is a huge weed supporter. However just as a vegan would argue there is no such thing as 'humane slaughter' I would argue there is no such thing as 'harmless dope'. The clue is in the name. No one needs their brain function impaired and their driving reaction times permanently slowed at best, and psychotic mental illness at worst.

No mention of the up and coming cocaine either and how this is leading to multiple murders in the supply chain in its own right - avocado. And how this is all Meghan Markle's fault for making them so popular! And like palm oil, avocado is obviously also decimating the rain forests somehow and needs to be stopped.

Glenny touched on Rockafeller and Carnegie as early adopters of the manipulated market and stranglehold cartel (oil and steel respectively) using private security enforcers but failed to mention that Rockafeller then proceeded to re-organise and monopolise modern medicine to suit his own purposes and wealth to this day, ensuring there was somewhere for all his petroleum by-products to be used for additional profit and that alternative medicines were denigrated, driven out and illegalised wherever possible. Tax-exempt charities and The famous Norman Dodd interview also failed to get a mention revealing that the 1929 Wall Street crash was fabricated. Remarkably Glenny (in view of all he must know) seemed to assume that the current recession was natural and simply caused by the banks going crazy.

Brexit was predictably seen as a negative, despite Glenny admitting that whole new markets in drug and human trafficking had sprung up to service the newly formed EU back in the early 90s. No mention of the one-world government we were heading towards though and all the new problems this would have brought.

The positives of Glenny's investigations and the future of the world were few and far between but I believe there was a large note of hope he completely overlooked. Namely that those who run the world (whether officially or unofficially) are in the minority, so it is up to us, the majority, to keep our ears and eyes open and question EVERYTHING. Don't walk around blithely assuming that everything is either being done in your best interests or that life will somehow work out for you. We have to be participants and not spectators. Drivers, not passengers. In other words - our own best friends - focussing on what we want in life rather than allowing ourselves to be ruled by the fear of what we don't want.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Shame of No Shame...

Last night my partner and I watched an episode of 'Trevor McDonald on Death Row'. One of the inmates Trevor interviewed was unhappy about being moved from Death Row after nearly twenty years to a normal prison after his sentence was reduced to three life sentences. His crime? He had murdered his wife and two young children after his wife had told him she wanted a divorce.

He had tried to kill himself shortly after the murders by jumping off a bridge but had been saved and resuscitated from the icy river water and made to stand trial.

Trevor asked him why he was so unhappy and the convict told him he had wanted to die 18 years ago and he wanted to die now.

To be in heaven with his family was his only wish and being in prison for the rest of his natural life was a punishment he could not cope with.

I was gobsmacked by this. Supposing there is such a place, what on earth made him think that he deserved to go to heaven rather than hell after murdering his innocent wife and children? Why did he imagine his slaughtered family would wish to spend all eternity with their murderer in the hereafter? What could be more appropriate than a hell-on-earth for the rest of his natural life?

While mental incapacity had been argued in his defence in the endless appeals conducted in his name, there are normally only two reasons for an individual to commit familicide. The ultimate act of control and the ultimate act of revenge, sometimes both combined. Such a crime requires intent. It is not impulsively committed, but premeditated. The convict admitted he was 100% guilty of the crime and had even had teardrops tattooed on his face to remind him to cry every day for what he had done.

The case made me think about how common familicide now seems to be. Seldom a week goes by without reading about another case in the newspaper (copycats?) and the online comments are illuminating. If a man has slaughtered his family and then himself, he is roundly condemned. If a mother has, there are outpourings of sympathy for her mental state and her poor innocent babies and 'may they all rest in peace.' almost as if it were some terrible accident they were offering condolences for rather than murder-suicide.  I cannot join in with this. Murder is murder and the vast majority of people know what murder is, no matter how mentally ill, challenged or depressed they might be.

Now that children have become possessions rather than gifts, there seems to be a disturbing trend of  'I brought them into the world - I can take them out.' Which is no better than the wronged partner or spouse who murders their partner with the justification; 'If I can't have you, no one else can!' Except that children are total innocents in the process and did not choose their warped parents.

What arrogance too to assume that no one else can raise your kids if you've chosen to check out of this world! You, who were offering them brutal murder as your idea of parenting. And in the knowledge that almost ANY other parents would do a much better job than a broken down one who is bent on taking their own life, and potentially their childrens' too.

Not so long ago suicide was deemed as 'selfish' and it remains against the law. Now the push for assisted suicide, ahem, assisted dying, appears to be making suicide increasingly socially acceptable, and not just for the terminally ill. However in the 'bad old days' of social stigma and condemnation, and even refusal to bury suicides in consecrated ground, I could swear there was a lot less suicide around. And religious belief and caring what the neighbours thought also came in handy as a preventative.

God knows we live in a world that feels increasingly designed to drive us all mad, but I assert it is our job to fight for our mental health, not give in. And at least not have children (or pets) if we have grave doubts about our ability to stay the course and be loving and responsible parents.

Doubtless I will be accused of 'suicide-shaming'. But in my view it is a subject which is not discussed and thought about enough (and considering it is estimated we have all had suicidal thoughts at various times in our lives), and a shame comeback might not go amiss in terms of reducing its attractiveness as an option. I have been on three suicide-prevention training modules indeed (lest I ever come across a desperate student in my work) and the course leaders have all urged that it is indeed a subject which needs to come out of the closet and have the root causes examined.

As for 'selfish', suicide remains a selfish act insofar as those attempted suicides who lived to tell the tale have admitted that they were thinking ONLY of themselves and their own pain when they tried to kill themselves and not of others or the pain their premature departure would have caused to their loved ones.

The late film star Robin Williams famously joked; 'Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.'  Which could be ironic if you happen to believe that he actually did commit suicide. But he left us a very true statement whatever the truth of his murky demise.

Writer Dorothy Parker also left an apt poem on the subject.

Resumé

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.