IF ever this mundane and painfully turgid existence got too much for me and I had one phone call to make to pull me out of the dark, gloomy depths of depression there would be no contest as to who I would ring. Not the Samaritans, not my parents, not my guru, not the police, the ambulance service or the local shrink. No, I would have to ring Withers.
This might surprise people who know Withers and consider him the last person to lighten spirits in times of crisis. His self-depracating demeanor, his glass is always half-empty approach and his decision to model his life on Seinfeld's George Costanza all suggest that he wouldn't have a clue how to talk around someone set on taking their own life. Don't believe it.
Last night in the Yard (yes, I have returned, sans trainers) for some reason we got onto the dark and gloomy subject of suicide. It was brought on by the weekend's News of the World revelations of how Lesley Grantham, Dirty Den from Eastenders, had failed in a number of suicide attempts.
Because we are journalists and have a distinctly warped view of life we found some of the revelations... whisper it... amusing. Like when he threw himself in a river carrying a rucksack full of bricks and then failed to sink (don't know if anyone told him styrofoam bricks didn't count). He then tried to get hypothermia, failed at that and eventually trudged home dripping wet for a change of clothes and a cup of tea.
Sometime after reaching alcohol saturation point I left the pub, half a pint still on the table as God is my witness, on the basis of not feeling entirely well.
When I got home there was some sozzled corner of my brain which instructed me to text Withers and send a spoof "cry for help". Of course, when a person receives a text they don't realise the state of mind you are in when you send it.
It read something like "Sorry mate I just can't go on, ug, oh, ooo ug..." and Withers immediately sprang into "Save Rippers" mode.
His advice is the only reason I am here today.
"Whoa, calm down and have a cup of water," he said.
So that he could carry on watching Jack Dee's latest show.
Sound advice to a man on the brink, I think you'll agree.
I can see it being used in the rescue text books from now on...
"Sarge, we've got a jumper."
"Middle of the Severn Bridge. Threatening to end it all. Styrofoam bricks in his rucksack.."
"Ok, Constable, take it easy. You better get up there. Talk him down. No sudden moves, ok?"
"Oh, and Constable... you may need this bottle of Volvic."
It was the Fat Kid's birthday yesterday. She's 24. She wasn't too pleased when I said: "Congratulations, you're nearly half way to 50."
Still, she has come a long way. Two happy, healthy kids, a comfortable home and a reasonable looking car.
I told her as much.
It doesn't seem long ago that she and her little pal were walking along behind me, spitting on the pavement like proper Chavs, dressed in identical puffa jackets and looking longingly in C&A's window while plotting their next act of Grand Larceny.
Now she shouts at her sisters if they even dream of spitting on the floor. How things change.
Age counts for something, I guess.