The house in which I was born was next to an abandoned theme park. The park had an African Lion Safari and when it closed there was nowhere else for the Lions to go, so they stayed. The former owner had to pay for their upkeep and deal with security. Every morning my mum listened to the Lions intently as they bellowed their dawn chorus. I think she fell in love with the mystery they represented and the freedom they seemed to enjoy. Soon after my birth she decided to introduce me to the neighbours. As an adult, I now realise this decision may have had something to do with post natal depression but as a child it sounded like such a happy story. Anyway they did not eat me they actually adopted me as one of their own. I loved to be with my Lion family. On long summer afternoons I would lure neighbourhood pets into their enclosure for a game of chasies. Afterwards we would lie around soaking in the sun for hours and hours. I learnt so many wonderful things but most importantly my Lion family taught me about living in the moment. When you run with the Pride you can feel it in your gut, all the joy and pain that can be had in life can come and go in a moment and life is just a series of moments. Over the happy years of my youth there were some minor setbacks. I lost some toes, some fingers and my right eye but on the whole I think I have benefited from living amongst the Lions. For example: • I was only ever bullied once • I can lick myself clean using no more than a standard glass of water • I can permanently retract my claws My dear old mum has now passed and the Lions were all put to sleep when I was a teenager. They never could find a home for them and Africa is such a long way away. Isn’t it odd how things that don’t seem to hurt you at the time of your youth can become a source of deep pain when you are fully grown? It may sound strange but if my Lion family were here with me now I could deal with them not being here so much better. As a young man I was a fairly wild and woolly character but nowadays I live a quiet life of contemplation and retreat. I think my bad behaviour was because I missed my family and did not know how to properly express myself. Of course no one understood. I often think of my Lion family and every now and then I try to play chasies but really it just makes me sad. Without the pride to run with it just doesn’t feel right, the moment has passed. If you are still reading this WTF is wrong with you? I smoked for 36 years, it was a crutch and a stress response. Like a lot of people it was a whole lot more than an addiction it was part of my identity. I tried everything but inside I wanted to smoke, it was a form of self punishment or self medication. It was a way to keep the world and its people at a distance. I used to say very stupid things when people hassled me about it like "it may well be killing me but it has allowed a whole lot of annoying arseholes like you to stay alive!" I planned on giving up. I picked a date 3 months in advance. I told everyone that this is what I am going to do. I went 5 days cold and then started vaping. I had conducted a lot of research and had it all ready to go. I almost cried with relief when I felt that first hit from the vape...sweet relief. I sighed as I breathed out a cloud and actually shook. I will never smoke again and have no desire whatsoever to do so. If the gubby tries to stop it I will gather up the Pride and bite those Ffers heads off!