Madness of crowds: mental health treatment

David Cameron entered office in 2010 as the leader of a coalition government committed to estab­lishing “parity of esteem” between mental and physical illness in the NHS. Five years later, he’s back as PM, presiding over a majority Tory government, and just about everyone in the country who works with the mentally ill – including the patients – are quaking in their boots. Spending on mental health now comprises just 13 per cent of the NHS budget, while its so-called “disease burden” stands at 23 per cent. In other words, a fifth of all those treated by the NHS are suffering from some sort of mental pathology.

Real meals: Jerky

You are what you eat, after all, and anyone who eats a Peperami is, by definition, a sad little prick

It’s time to talk jerky! For too long now this column has pussyfooted around the issues and refused to give it to you, the reader, straight. The buck stops here. From now on we’ll call a spade like this: “Hey! Spade!” And when it comes we’ll use it to beat every cliché in the vicinity to death.

Madness of crowds: Far from the Madding Crowd

A film director friend of mine once explained to me the wherefores of successful film distribution in Britain: “It’s all down to your T-sides, Will,” he maintained. “Get your T-sides sorted or it doesn’t matter how many screens you open on, you still won’t get the bums on seats.” I had no idea at the time what a T-side was, but ever since he told me I’ve seen them everywhere. Often a T-side will glide across my field of vision when I’m least expecting it – supplanting my view of the Holloway Road, for example, with the winsome spectacle of a giant Carey Mulligan, red-cheeked and wind-tousled against a Wessex backdrop.

On location: The Hoo Peninsula

There are many ways of going for a walk; my friend Antony and I have been walking the length of the Hoo Peninsula for over a decade now. Obviously we haven’t been promenading non-stop – from Gravesend in the west to Grain in the east is only about 20 miles’ comfortable strolling – but doing it in instalments. We did the first leg around 2005: out along the Thames’s south bank to the weird Second World War ruins at Lower Hope Point; then inland, skirting Cliffe marshes to the village itself. While we were waiting for the minicab to come and take us back to Gravesend we committed to completing the walk, but what with one monumental artwork on Antony’s part and another modernist novel on mine, it was only a fortnight ago that we finally returned.

A journey to the heart of Britain

I teach at Brunel University in Uxbridge on the outskirts of London – I’m not claiming I could have any academic job I wanted, but I did decide to work at Brunel for a reason, and that reason is Britain. Or, to be a bit more precise: Little Britain. The Brunel University campus was built in the 1960s, and to my way of thinking it’s a superb example of Brutalist architecture – Stanley Kubrick was certainly impressed, because he chose to shoot some of A Clockwork Orange there, the university’s lecture centre doubling for the sinister Ludovico Institute where Alex the droog is brainwashed into non-violence. Yet it isn’t the university’s association with this dystopic vision of a future Britain which drew me there – rather, it’s the physical location.

Real meals: Spoons

For the past fortnight or so, I have been much exercised by the handsome “personalised spoon offer” that Kellogg’s has had blazoned on its Rice Krispies boxes. My youngest and I decided we very much wanted a spoon with our own slogan engraved on it and he began working on the words while I set about eating enough of the desiccated little blebs to justify buying the two further boxes we needed to obtain the “secret code numbers” required to unlock the spoon trove. On the back of these boxes are winsome pictures of happy new spoon-owners – but we were dismayed at their lack of ­imagination. All their spoons were simply personalised with their names (Carol, Keisha, Tarquin, et al) and the Kellogg’s cartoon brand mascots, whereas we were thinking of something surreal and subversive, such as: “Which orifice? Your choice.”