I should be writing this from Tunis. Actually, I should be writing this on a break from high-dive practice but after a particularly awful dive in the last heat of Splash! I didn't make it through to the semi-final. Although bad for my pride as I'd nailed the dive four times that day, this was actually a good thing as I am just getting my body back from three weeks of bruising and intense pain. Another two weeks would have broken me for good.
At a loose end, I decided, on a whim to buy a ticket to Tunis, a city I have never visited, and spend four days having a look round the place. The fact that we had no heating oil at home because we'd been let down by the delivery company might have had something to do with it as well. We were living in one room at home, wrapped in blankets and sitting in front of the fire. Every day, the house would get colder and colder as the residual heat drained out of the old walls. Damn you, Butler Fuels of Cheltenham. The idea of a trip to warmer climes was doubly appealing.
There was, however the geopolitical situation to take into account. North Africa is rapidly becoming the new Afghanistan. I'd considered the recent Algerian hostage situation, but the gas facility was as far away from the North African coast as London was. Then, the night before I flew there was a serious terror warning to Westerners living in Benghazi in neighbouring Libya. There was now trouble on both sides of Tunisia and Egypt was hotting up to boot.
"Are you sure it's safe?" asked my wife.
"Of course it is," I replied breezily.
"How do you know?" she continued.
I just do…" I replied, trying to look mysterious, as though I couldn't reveal my sources. I said goodbye to my family and drove up to London.
As I sped up the A40 I spotted not one, not two, but three coffins being driven separately in hearses. I rarely see one so to see three was highly unusual.
I drove on and parked my car at Westfield in Shepherd's Bush. As I got out and walked towards the lift, I noticed some very neat graffiti on the base of one of the pillars. It was so perfectly printed that I stopped and bent down to read it. It read: "You are going to die."
I couldn't believe it. I straightened up and walked on. What a curious thing to put on a pillar, so low down near the floor. I couldn't get it out of my head. Was someone trying to tell me something? I laughed half-heartedly but it was freaking me out.
I was the "Dark Tourist" I had written a book of the same name, visiting places like North Korea, Iran, Chernobyl .... I did not "do" fear. But I couldn't shake it off – something was bothering me.
I slept badly and had terrible dreams of the final of Splash! being interrupted to show a live broadcast of me being beheaded in some desert cave. Vernon Kay made a quip: "To be fair, his head landed better than in his dive…".
I woke up and cancelled my trip. Sometimes, you've got to listen to the voices.